Mon, Mar 01, 2010 - Page 3 News List

ANALYSIS: Weekend losses may have ripple effect for KMT

A LONG TURNAROUNDThe weekend’s by-elections were a setback for King Pu-tsung, whom analysts say has failed to improve the party’s electoral campaigns

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) defeat in Saturday’s legislative by-elections could have a domino effect and the party could suffer yet another setback in the special municipality elections at the end of the year if it fails to integrate local factions and present better policies, political observers said.

The KMT secured only one of the four legislative seats in Saturday’s by-election, winning Hualien County but losing Taoyuan, Hsinchu and Chiayi to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). This marked the second electoral defeat for the KMT this year after it lost all three contested seats in another legislative by-election in January.

National Dong Hwa University professor Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒) said the power struggle between local factions was a major factor in the KMT’s defeats, adding that KMT ­Secretary-General King Pu-tsung’s (金溥聰) party reform plans appeared to have failed to win the support of pan-blue voters.

In a post-election press conference on Saturday, King said the party had lost the by-elections in Taoyuan and Hsinchu — both pan-blue strongholds — because of intra-party splits.

For the Taoyuan race, the KMT nominated former commissioner of the Taoyuan County Department of Cultural Affairs Apollo Chen (陳學聖), who had failed to top polls within the party. Former Taoyuan County councilor Wu Yu-tung (吳餘東) and Jhongli Deputy Mayor Lin Hsiang-mei (林香美) later withdrew from the KMT to join the by-­election, splitting the pan-blue vote and contributing to Chen’s defeat.

Even though the KMT secured Hualien, it fought hard to suppress the faction led by Hualien County Commissioner Fu Kun-chi (傅崑萁), who gave his full endorsement to independent candidate Shih Sheng-lang (施勝郎).

King said the party refused to make compromises with certain local factions and would press ahead with party reform and nominate candidates with integrity regardless of the electoral outcome.

The KMT’s nomination strategy, however, sent mixed messages, said Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), a political scientist at Soochow University.

The KMT fielded a candidate like Wang Ting-sheng (王廷升), a university professor who narrowly beat the DPP’s Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) in Hualien, but it compromised with local factions that supported former Hsinchu County commissioner Cheng Yung-chin (鄭永金) and nominated his brother Cheng Yung-tang (鄭永堂) in Hsinchu, Lo said.

While President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), in his capacity as KMT chairman, visited the county many times and King sought Hsinchu County Commissioner Chiu Ching-chun’s (邱鏡淳) support for Cheng Yung-tang, this did not prevent a defeat in Hsinchu.

Wang Yeh-li (王業立), a professor at National Taiwan University (NTU), said local factions were an issue within the KMT.

“The KMT’s battle against local factions prompted some pan-blue supporters to turn their back on the party. It could create a domino effect and the party could very well lose the five special municipality elections,” he said.

Lin Huo-wang (林火旺), also at NTU and who once served as senior advisor to President Ma, saw things differently.

“It [the defeat] tells Ma that he should stop trying to woo voters from the pan-green camp,” he said. “A political party will not be able to hold its core support if it drifts further away from its ideals.”

The KMT has suffered a series of setbacks in elections since regaining power in 2008. Before losing the two legislative by-­elections, it also suffered defeats in the Miaoli and Yunlin legislative by-elections, as well as the local government elections in December.

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