Sat, Jan 31, 2015 - Page 8 News List

The fading dynasty of Taiwan’s ‘king Ma’

By James Wang 王景弘

Since President MA Ying-jeou (馬英九) stepped down as chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the party and the nation are no longer governed by the same leader. Ma leads the nation, whereas the KMT’s new leader, New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫), heads the party. Ma’s practical influence is greatly reduced, and even invitations for him to appear at important events around the nation have greatly decreased. Political power has clearly shifted toward the legislature, and the man who now receives the most invitations is Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).

This result should not come as a surprise. Ma abused his presidential powers to cook up a story and accuse Wang of improper lobbying in an attempt to expel him from the party, which would have entailed the loss of his position as speaker. The move met with unexpected opposition and now more than 40 KMT lawmakers and 20 members of the KMT Central Standing Committee have signed a petition asking that the lawsuit aimed at the termination of Wang’s party membership be withdrawn. How many other people in Taiwan’s political arena are capable of pulling off something like this?

Chu is a shrewd politician and is mentored by his father-in-law, former Taiwan Provincial Assembly speaker Kao Yu-jen (高育仁) — also a savvy operator. Chu knows that his political power and that of his people depends on the legislature, and that their survival relies on Wang. Hence, the withdrawal of the lawsuit against Wang is only a matter of time and methodology.

That Wang has gone from almost having his KMT membership revoked to becoming the darling of the party, and from being accused of improper lobbying to (as rumor has it) preparing to run for president while also bringing Chu into the fold, shows that Wang has managed to turn his fortunes around quite dramatically. Now he could either take another step forward and run for the presidency, or he could take a step back and retain his speakership. The formation of a coalition between Chu and Wang is the logical result.

Chu now has a firm grip on the party’s assets and the right to nominate candidates for major elections. His most important political strength resides in the legislature. Since, in his opinion, the reason the KMT failed miserably in last year’s nine-in-one local elections is that the KMT lost touch with the public, he might just as well let the legislature reflect public opinion and operate independently from Ma by using the legislature to lead Ma, instead of covering up for Ma’s corrupt administration.

Ma is inept, but he and his people have controlled Taiwan and reaped the benefits for six years. As a result, the KMT suffered a terrible defeat in the elections and the numerous misfortunes that followed. Ma’s dream of a unified Republic of China under the rule of the KMT is more improbable than a unified China under Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).

Without the KMT chairmanship, Ma is no longer the person that Xi wants to deal with. After the elections, only one city and five counties are left under Ma’s control. His kingdom is now surrounded by cities and counties governed by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The media that used to worship him are now realizing their important role in independently monitoring the government, and their capability to probe is mightier than that of the DPP.

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