Sun, Jul 03, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Wang, Ma sidestep detailed reform plans

TREADING LIGHTLY The two chairmanship candidates were conspicuously ambiguous about reform plans, as they don't want to step on Lien Chan's toes, analysts said

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

A boy stands below a TV showing Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng explaining why he is the ideal candidate for the KMT chairmanship during the first of two televised forums yesterday.

PHOTO: LUO PEI-TEH, TAIPEI TIMES

Political commentators characterized Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng's (王金平) and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) performances during their televised campaign presentations yesterday as "level headed" and "conservative."

Analysts said that while the two Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairmanship candidates presented their ideas for the party and their desire to upgrade its image clearly, both appeared to shy away from spelling out their plans for reform in any detail, or exactly what was needed to achieve such reform.

"[The ambiguity] might have been because incumbent Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) still holds much influence in the party, so both Wang and Ma wanted to be careful in their presentation and not appear to support a radical departure from Lien's leadership," said Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) a research fellow at Academia Sinica's Research Center for Humanities and Social Sciences.

Noting that Ma is familiar with televised campaign speeches given his experience in running for Taipei mayor, Hsu said, "Ma appeared poised," adding that the ease with which he speaks Mandarin worked to his advantage.

"Wang, by comparison, appeared a bit nervous while speaking Mandarin all the way through his speech," Hsu said.

"[Speaking in Mandarin] kind of hampered Wang's ability to be eloquent," he added.

"Due to the KMT's membership make-up, it might be a bit risky to speak only Taiwanese during the speech," Hsu said, adding, "in doing so, Wang might court support from Taiwanese party members, and at the same time, it could also highlight his ability to resolve ethnic issues."

Hsu said that Wang might want to consider speaking Taiwanese in his next televised campaign presentation.

The second and last televised campaign speech will be held this coming Friday -- just one week before party members cast their vote in the July 16 chairmanship election.

Yesterday's campaign presentation was the first of its kind to be held in the KMT's 110-year history for candidates running for the party's highest position.

In past chairmanship elections, there was always only one candidate running for the post and the candidate was voted to the leadership position by either applause from party members or votes cast by the party's central committee representatives.

Where Wang and Ma shared common ground is in the importance they attached to reaching out to the rank and file of the party to forge better relations with grass-roots supporters. Both pledged to hold the party's weekly policy-making Central Standing Committee meeting in different cities and counties in an effort to build bridges to people outside of Taipei.

Both also stressed the importance of casting the KMT in a youthful light, and attracting more young people to the party.

"One of Ma's advantages is his appeal among young people," political commentator Chen Li-hung (陳立宏) said. "So what Wang needs to do is to work on how to challenge Ma on that level."

Where the two differed, said political watchers, was in their ideological positions and views on sovereignty. While Wang talked of his ability to integrate the pan-blue camp under one umbrella and resolve ethnic problems, Ma emphasized his "deep-blue" stance, vowing to safeguard the Republic of China and oppose the "one country, two systems" idea.

"With both Wang and Ma touching upon issues that go beyond internal party matters, it is apparent that both were positioning themselves as potential candidates for the presidency in the future," Chen said.

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