Although the next presidential election is a year away, both the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) are jockeying for position.
On the KMT side, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has indicated that he intends to seek a second term. So far, there have been no signs that anyone within the party will challenge him.
Ma has begun to prepare for his re-election bid and plans to open his campaign office in mid-May, KMT sources said.
Former KMT secretary-general King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), a confidant of Ma, is expected to head the campaign office and work with the party to solidify support for Ma in southern Taiwan, traditionally a DPP stronghold.
Ma recently hosted a series of luncheons for people who contributed to his 2008 campaign White Paper and worked on the campaign team. At the events, guests discussed the contents of a new campaign White Paper.
High-ranking officials said that KMT Secretary-General Liao Liou-yi (廖了以) and Presidential Office Secretary-General Wu Jin-lin (伍錦霖) will use their influence and connections to make up for the poor interaction between King and local factions in the past, thus helping to pave the way for Ma’s re-election.
A more urgent task will be for the KMT to shore up Ma’s fast sliding support among women and young people.
“The situation is worse than we imagined,” a KMT official said. “Women are no longer keen on the KMT’s activities and their passion for Ma has cooled fast.”
Both King and Liao are said to be aware of the warning signs.
King has instructed local KMT groups to reinstall staff to deal exclusively with women’s affairs. Meanwhile, Liao has asked Chen Yu-mei (陳玉梅), the head of the party’s Women’s Department, to visit Taipei, New Taipei City (新北市), Greater Taichung, Greater Tainan and Greater Kaohsiung to make organizational and other changes.
Young and middle-aged people had great expectations of Ma during the 2008 presidential election, but have now switched their aspirations to DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, said the official, who wished to remain anonymous.
If continuity is one of his main concerns, Ma is likely to choose Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) as his running mate, the official said. However, if the president is focused on other considerations, he could pick Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), the party official said.
Ma and Wu have been traveling around the country since early this month, the official noted.
However, the KMT ticket will not be announced until June, so the priority now is to strive for better administrative performance, the official said.
In a move that some political observers suspect is a means to gain greater support from farmers in the coming elections, KMT lawmakers from southern Taiwan and agriculture-based counties have proposed a law revision to raise monthly subsidies to elderly farmers from NT$6,000 to NT$10,000.
The DPP legislative caucus has not expressed opposition to the proposal, but has asked that the Ma administration make its stance on the bill clear.
However, Tsao Shao-huei (曹紹徽), director of the Farmer Assistance Department under the Council of Agriculture, said he opposed to the idea.
Tsao said that around 700,000 elderly farmers are currently receiving the subsidy, which costs NT$50 billion (US$1.68 billion) per year. If the monthly amount is increased, an additional NT$33.6 billion will be required to fund the subsidies, he said.