The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) knew that the 2008 presidential election will be no easy fight against the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) from the moment that KMT chairman-elect Ma Ying-jeou (
The result of the KMT chairmanship election on Saturday is seen as a sure sign of a Ma presidential candidacy in 2008, especially in light of the absolute thrashing he gave to his opponent, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), who was long known for his strong local support network and highly developed political skills.
Although Ma did not declare that he would campaign for the presidency in 2008, according to the latest poll conducted by the Chinese-language newspaper the United Daily News, about 65 percent of those surveyed said that they would support Ma in running for the presidential election in 2008, while about 90 percent of KMT members said they would vote for Ma and almost 75 percent of People First Party (PFP) members thought Ma would make a good presidential candidate.
And most worrying for the pan-greens, about 35 percent of DPP supporters also said they would support of Ma in the 2008 election, which demonstrates that Ma can attract support among voters who take a more neutral attitude toward politics.
That is the reason why DPP officials and lawmakers are shaking in their boots over Ma, and regard him as a formidable foe.
"Pan-blue supporters have been hoping for a person that would be able to lead them to victory for a long time, and Ma is no doubt their chosen one, judging from the election outcome," DPP Legislator Lee Wen-chung (
But while the KMT's choice for 2008 presidential candidate seems almost certain, the DPP has yet to firmly advance its own prospective candidate. President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has tried to strike a balance between his two most likely successors, Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), in order to maintain his own control over the DPP, said Chien Yu-yen (簡余晏), a senior political reporter and TV commentator.
"Su and Hsieh have been competing for the presidential candidacy for 2008, but no matter who becomes the DPP's candidate, one thing for sure: Hsieh and Su will have to be united if they want to try to take on Ma, a candidate that enjoys incredibly high confidence among pan-blue supporters, and also some pan-green supporters," Chien said. "There is no room for Hsieh and Su to fight with each other."
Academia Sinica political analyst Hsu Yung-ming (
"Now that Ma will become the KMT chairman, he is obligated to campaign for the KMT's nominee, [Legislator] Chou Hsi-wei (
The degree of success of the campaigns for the county commissioner nominees could decide the political destinies of the prospective presidential candidates, Hsu said.
Meanwhile, political analysts also suggested that the DPP had better give up its strategy of criticizing Ma, because it could cause a backlash against the DPP.
"Many incidents happened in the past that have once again proved that criticizing Ma is a strategy that will only hurt the DPP, because the mass media in Taiwan -- be they print or broadcast -- are so fond of Ma that they have tried hard to defend even his mistakes," Chien said.
Chien predicted that Ma will adopt a cooperative attitude with the DPP to build up his image as a strong and pragmatic leader, which will leave Su and Hsieh with little room to challenge Ma and will attract swing votes.
But Ma's Mainlander heritage is also a factor that could work to the DPP's advantage, analysts said.
Shih Cheng-feng (
"If the KMT, led by Ma, follows in the steps of the New Party, then a voter will vote for the KMT just because he or she is a Mainlander. With this situation, the result would be more favorable to the DPP given that Mainlanders are still a minority compared with local Taiwanese," Shih said.
Among the successful politicians who are Mainlanders, PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) is one of the few national-level politicians that could convince large numbers of Taiwanese to vote for him, because of his record as Taiwan's provincial governor, Hsu said. However, Soong still lost the presidential election when he ran in 2000.
"I am highly skeptical as to whether Ma can do better in winning local Taiwanese votes than Soong, since he has had no nationwide political experience, like Soong," Hsu said. "For the DPP, the next presidential election will be no easy fight. Likewise, Ma's victory also means the beginning of a succession of trials on the road to the presidency."
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