EDITORIAL: Domestic reconciliation needed

Wed, Jan 26, 2011 - Page 8

Former top envoy to the US Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) on Sunday criticized the government, saying it ignores and suppresses dissenting opinions in its exchanges with China. Wu said the result was further division, and that domestic reconciliation is more important than cross-strait reconciliation.

While Wu hit the nail on the head, he could have gone one step further: To President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), reconciliation within the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is more important than domestic reconciliation.

During Ma’s almost three years in power, relations between the government and the opposition have been tense. Apart from one televised debate between Ma and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), there has been no dialogue between the two party leaders, and the government and the opposition parties don’t communicate, making it difficult to build any kind of consensus. Given the close official and unofficial relations between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), it’s no surprise that it has been said that the KMT is closer to Beiping — an old name for Beijing — than to Beiping East Road in Taipei, the location of the DPP’s party headquarters.

However, Ma’s relations with local governments are even more worrying than the relationship between the government and the opposition. In the five special municipality elections, the KMT basically abandoned the south, and in central Taiwan, Greater Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) only barely won against the DPP’s Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全), even though Su was parachuted in for the election.

Ma is neglecting local governments and clearly dislikes local factions. This alienates him from local leaders, making it difficult to consolidate voter support. Without his best campaign worker in 2008, then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), Ma is facing an uphill battle in next year’s presidential election. The clearest indicator of his poor local connections is his relationship with Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).

Wang’s political background differs from Ma’s. Having been elected to the legislature in 1975, Wang is now the most senior legislator in Taiwan. As legislative speaker from 1999 and following the changes in government, he has gained the respect of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), Chen and KMT as well as DPP lawmakers. He also has many contacts with local politicians. Wang is very important to the KMT, but after the battle between him and Ma for the KMT chairmanship in 2005 turned ugly, the relationship between the two has been tense.

As Wang and his deputy Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) are facing rules restricting KMT members to two nominations as legislator at large, the question is whether they will run for a constituency seat. This is a key test of Ma and Wang’s relationship and political skills. Ma can handle the issue in one of three ways. He could continue to ignore Wang and let him run for a legislative seat. That would probably mean that Wang would not campaign for Ma’s re--election, and he could even become an obstacle to it. Second, Ma could change the rules, giving the speaker and the vice speaker the right to continue to serve as legislators at large. Wang might then make a small effort to promote Ma’s re-election. Finally, Ma could make Wang his vice presidential candidate to consolidate voter support in the south and ensure Wang’s all-out support to help Ma get re-elected.

With the five special municipality elections over, KMT Secretary-General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) has decided to hand his post over to Presidential Office Secretary-General Liao Liou-yi (廖了以), who is well connected to the local factions and excels at interpersonal relations. How to resolve the problems between Ma and Wang and improve the political climate is something that will weigh on the minds of Liao, Ma and Wang over the Lunar New Year holidays.