Sun, Jul 17, 2005 - Page 3 News List

KMT Chairmanship Election: Ma is facing an uphill battle in his new role

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER

Outgoing KMT Chairman Lien Chan, right, and chairman-elect, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, going to vote in the party chairmanship election yesterday.


As the curtain dropped on yesterday's "gentlemanly competition" for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairmanship between Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), Ma's supporters hailed his resounding victory yesterday as a turning point in the history of the nation's oldest party.

But how much leverage will Ma's victory give him over the KMT, the pan-blue camp and the KMT's chances of winning back administrative power in 2008?

"By winning with such a large margin, the position of the KMT will be very strong, especially in the north. Ma's success will help the party's chances for the year-end Taipei County commissioner's election," said Academia Sinica political analyst Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) yesterday.

Within the wider pan-blue camp, analysts yesterday said Ma's success will have certain consequences for future pan-blue unity and cooperation since relations between Ma and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) are not good.

Soong has criticized Ma on numerous occasions this year for not taking a more active role in the post-presidential election protests and has blamed Ma for possibly costing the pan-blue camp the presidential election last year by deciding to cancel its originally scheduled March 19, 2004 rallies.

It was no surprise that the pan-blue unity card played by Wang enjoyed support from Soong.

Highlighting the importance of pan-blue unity to supporters in yesterday's election, the Wang camp's front-page, election-day ads featured a black-and-white photo of him from last year's sit-down protests with pan-blue leaders. Besides attempting to remind voters of the previous criticisms of Ma for not being an active participant in the presidential election protests, the ads also refered to Wang's campaign slogan that only he would be able to effectively unite the pan-blue camp.

In the last moments before the election Friday night, Soong appeared in a videotaped message to Wang supporters while a number of PFP legislators appeared at the rally to urge supporters to vote for Wang.

Despite the cross-party support enjoyed by Wang, however, academic Chou Yu-jen (周育仁) said yesterday that it was doubtful that Ma's success would have a negative influence on pan-blue unity.

"While everyone knows that Soong does not like Ma, he will have to acknowledge Ma as chairman," said Chou yesterday, adding that while Soong may not like it, the KMT is still the country's largest opposition party.

In contrast, Hsu said that it will be difficult for Ma to unite the pan-blue camp given the personal enmity Soong has toward him and that a struggle for power may continue with Wang.

"Without Wang's help in the legislature, pan-blue unity is virtually impossible," Hsu said.

Ma's victory yesterday bodes ill for the PFP, said PFP Legislator Supo Kao (高思博).

Kao said that pan-blue cooperation has been and is an unavoidable reality. Given that the basic policy directions of the KMT and PFP are similar, it is natural for the parties to work together.

However, the truth is, Kao said, that it is likely that Ma's success would further consolidate the PFP's decline and highlight the KMT's dominance of the pan-blue camp.

Another major factor in the election result was the looming pressure of the upcoming 2008 presidential election, as seen from both Wang's and Ma's campaign focus on sticky national issues such as Taiwanese independence and cross-strait relations.

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