Mon, Mar 23, 2009 - Page 3 News List

ANALYSIS: Ma must reverse dismal ratings: pundits

DISCONTENT The Chinese Nationalist Party government should listen to public opinion or get ready for difficult local elections at the end of the year, analysts say

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) garnered 58 percent of the vote when he won the presidential election last March. Ten months into his presidency, his approval rating has dropped below 30 percent.

A poll by the Chinese-language magazine Global Views and released on March 19 put Ma’s approval rating at 28.6 percent, with 58 percent of the respondents saying they disapproved of his performance.

The survey also found that Ma’s “trust index” had dropped to nearly 41 percent, while 50 percent of the respondents called for a Cabinet reshuffle to improve government performance.

A poll by the pan-blue-leaning network TVBS two days later found that satisfaction with Ma had fallen from 41 percent upon his inauguration on May 20 to 29 percent just before the anniversary of his election victory yesterday.

Only 34 percent of respondents in the TVBS poll said the government was leading the nation in the right direction.

Analysts yesterday attributed the sharp decline to Ma’s leadership style and a lackluster performance on the part of his administration.

Allen Houng (洪裕宏), an executive member of the Taipei Society, said that although the global economic downturn had played a role in public opinion of the administration’s performance, the government’s attitude in addressing a range of issues were also key.

Citing as an example the economic deal Ma supports signing with Beijing, Houng said the administration was not only reluctant to offer a clear account of the what the pact would entail, but also bent on forging ahead with it despite opposition from political and industrial groups.

“It is an autocratic act and disregards other people’s opinions,” he said. “There is a yawning chasm between the public conception of a democratic system and the government’s actions.”

While Ma has said he has the mandate of the 7.65 million who voted for him to push his policies, Houng said the point of democracy is not to allow the majority to ignore the opinions of the minority but to incorporate both in the decision-making process.

The argument that the government has a mandate to do as it pleases shows arrogance on the part of Ma and his Cabinet, he said.

In the face of dismal approval ratings, Ma has stood by his policies and said reshuffling his Cabinet is not necessary.

Houng said it was clear that the global financial crisis had had an impact on the local economy. Ma might not need to apologize or step down over the poor performance of his administration, but he should at least form a new government, Houng said.

Houng said Ma was taking advantage of weak checks and balances and the pan-blue camp’s absolute majority in the legislature to do as he pleased.

Houng said Ma had to realize that as his mandate had come from the public, he remained subject to its oversight. But he believed that Ma would not take his slipping approval ratings seriously unless the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) suffered a resounding defeat in next week’s legislative by-election or the year-end elections for local commissioners and mayors.

Leou Chia-feng (柳嘉峰), executive director of the Institute for National Development, agreed.

Leou said he did not think Ma would reshuffle the Cabinet unless something dramatic happened to weaken his party or presidency, adding that the by-election in Taipei’s Da-an District (大安) would serve as a litmus test.

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