Amid the brouhaha that is the expanding Lin Yi-shih (林益世) corruption scandal, there has been a resurgence of calls for President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to step down as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman so that he can focus on his presidential duties. Although a KMT official was quick to scotch the notion on Wednesday, the call for a rethink of party management style does not go far enough.
“The KMT is a party with a party-state system, and a lot of things require communication and negotiation between the administrative branch and the party. It is necessary for the president to lead the party,” KMT Culture and Communication director Chuang Po-chung (莊伯仲) said.
It is just that mentality — the inability to recognize that times have changed — that appears to have gotten Ma, the KMT and the nation into trouble in the first place.
This is not the 1950s or the 1970s or the 1980s, when the Republic of China truly was a party-state system run by an autocratic — and venal — regime. The KMT may hold the presidency and a slim majority in the legislature, but there are plenty of people who did not vote for Ma or his party and their voices must be acknowledged and their point of view respected.
The nation has steadily become more democratic since the 1990s and the only people who apparently do not recognize that are those ensconced in the upper echelons of the true-blue party. What is good for the KMT might not be good for the nation and the sooner Ma and his cohorts recognize this, the better off the nation will be.
It looks like some of those lower down in the party ranks are beginning to come to grips with this idea. Ma may have been able to ram the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China through the legislature with almost no oversight, but his inability to get all the KMT lawmakers to back him on easing the ban on imports of beef containing ractopamine residue or pushing through a capital gains tax on securities transactions shows that lawmakers are beginning to place a higher value on what their constituents want than what their chairman or a member of his Cabinet tells them to do — despite the risk of party sanctions.
Even before Ma was sworn in for his second, and final, term, there were signs that all was not right in the links between the halls of the Presidential Office and the Legislative Yuan. Some KMT Central Standing Committee members, including lawmakers, voiced concern about Ma’s plummeting approval ratings because of his policies, including the hikes in fuel prices and electricity rates.
Now, according to a TVBS poll on Wednesday, Ma’s approval rating has plummeted to 15 percent, with 64 percent of respondents saying they have no confidence in his future performance and 78 percent critical of his administration’s crisis-management skills.
That definitely sounds like Ma and the KMT need to do some serious rethinking of how they run this administration. The nation is facing a multitude of economic and development problems and questions about its national defense needs and future cooperation with China, but it seems that Ma and his crew are more concerned with how the Lin scandal will play out in the 2014 elections and saving Ma’s reputation than what the nation needs.
The old ways are not working — and should not — but unfortunately, we have yet to see any sign of a new mindset in the Presidential Office or in KMT headquarters.