A huge outdoor ad has been put up in Chiayi as part of the city’s mayoral election campaign, saying: “A vote for Chen Yi-chen (陳以真) is a vote for Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).”
After coming under pressure, the owner of the building on which the ad appeared removed it, which sparked protests from another candidate, who said that there is no freedom of expression in the city.
Although this is just a small interlude in the election campaign, it is interesting because Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) mayoral candidate Chen had demanded that the ad be taken down, while Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲), who is also running for the position, protested its removal.
That the KMT candidate is so afraid to be associated with the president and her party’s chairman shows that KMT candidates think Ma will scare voters away.
US President Barack Obama faced a similar situation leading up to this week’s US midterm elections. As candidates did all they could to avoid being associated with Obama — whose performance has been less than stellar — Republican candidates only had to directly challenge Obama’s policies to score easy victories. Ma is clearly in the same boat Obama was.
The Democrats were routed, and the Republicans, who now control both houses of the US Congress, are claiming a “historic” victory. In the future, Obama’s policy implementation will be even more constrained by Republicans, while the media will train the spotlight on former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton and her expected 2016 presidential candidacy. Although he still has two years in office, Obama is a lame duck president and the post-Obama era is beginning.
Ma could learn a lot by looking at Obama’s situation. Every opinion survey and expert prognosis points to overall KMT losses in the Nov. 29 nine-in-one local elections, and it seems that the only question left is how bad the defeat will be. Ma has had full control over the government, so he should also take full responsibility for the results.
It will be difficult for Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) not to take political responsibility for the poor policy achievements and step down, and it is only natural that Ma should resign as party chairman to take responsibility if the party fares as poorly as expected.
New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) is expected to be re-elected, and, as with Clinton for the US Democrats, he is seen as the future for the KMT.
Ma now needs to consider what he will be doing during the year-and-a-half remaining in his term. What kind of president does he want to be remembered as after eight years in office?
In Ma’s address after being re-elected in 2012, he talked about his “position in history.” Everyone knows that he wants to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and that to that end, he leans toward China and always considers what Beijing wants. He ignored public opinion by signing the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement and the cross-strait service trade agreement, and entered into talks about a cross-strait trade in goods agreement. Despite Ma offering so many compromises, Xi still did not allow him to attend the APEC meeting in Beijing. Ultimately, the two shall never meet.
Ma is dreaming if he thinks someone else will bestow a place in history on him. It is only through solid practical policy achievements that he will be able to burnish his legacy. He must now engage in a serious review of the shortcomings of his cross-strait and domestic policies and use his remaining time in office to listen to public opinion, appoint talented people, follow policies that differ from his past efforts and try to solve domestic political and economic problems.
Failure to do that can only result in one historical assessment — ineptitude.
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