Wed, Dec 13, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Analysis: Analysts urge Ma to reflect on KMT's failed strategy

`BIGGEST LOSER' Political pundits lamented Ma's seeming indifference to the voice of dissent within the party and members' call for a pro-localization move

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) failure to defeat the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Saturday's Kaohsiung mayoral election has prompted the party to reexamine its election strategies and party policies.

While a number of party legislators have voiced their frustration, lamenting the party's poor performance in Kaohsiung, and urged the party to place more emphasis on promoting localization, KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) interpreted the election results as a confirmation of the status quo and argued that the party expanded its support base in the southern city by attracting almost half of the votes.

Political analysts warned that the prospects of Ma leading the party to defeat the DPP in the 2008 presidential election could be slim if he and the party continued to refuse to acknowledge the KMT's problem of acceptability among southern voters and instead blamed its failure on the DPP.

"Ma Ying-jeou is the biggest loser in the elections. To win in Kaohsiung, it's crucial to integrate local factions. Ma said he spared no efforts in campaigning, but his so-called effort was to shake hands with the residents. It's ridiculous," said Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒), a public administration professor at Tamkang University.

Compared to the DPP, a party that has dominated Kaohsiung and southern Taiwan for years even after being involved in a string of corruption scandals, the KMT has failed to reform its long-term image of corruption and appeal to the strong local consciousness among southern residents, Shih said.

"As the KMT still couldn't rid itself of its image as a corrupt party under Ma's chairmanship, the party wasn't able to defeat the DPP by focusing its campaign on the corruption scandals surrounding the DPP," he added.

The KMT had defined the Taipei and Kaohsiung mayoral elections as a confidence vote on President Chen Shui-bin (陳水扁) and hoped to dislodge the DPP from its stronghold in Kaohsiung by capitalizing on the slew of corruption scandals surrounding Chen.

However, DPP candidate Chen Chu (陳菊) won the mayorship by a 0.14 percent margin -- only 1,114 votes more than KMT candidate Huang Chun-ying (黃俊英).

Yang Tai-shun (楊泰順), a professor of political science at Chinese Culture University, said that the KMT's election strategy, which focused on the DPP's corruption scandals but not on the candidate's character and platform, should be blamed for the party's loss in Kaohsiung.

"All the voters heard were the corruption scandals involving the DPP, but they knew nothing about Huang Chun-ying and how his election would bring a better future for Kaohsiung," Yang said.

Despite the barrage of criticism over the party's election strategy, Ma insisted that it was the right strategy to attack the DPP's corruption. He attributed the Kaohsiung election result to the DPP's groundless accusations against Huang on the eve of the polls.

"We lost the Kaohsiung election by a razor-thin margin, and the opponent won the election because of a vicious strategy," Ma said on Saturday night after the elections.

"Our efforts in Kaohsiung are not wasted," he added.

While apologizing for "failing to meet supporters' expectations" after a KMT post-election meeting, Ma refused to admit that the party has a problematic strategy in Kaohsiung.

"If the strategy was all wrong, we wouldn't have received almost half of the votes," he said.

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