The Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Central Standing Committee (CSC) has been functioning as an election campaign vehicle since it began holding its weekly meetings in central and southern Taiwan in October, with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) leading committee members to meet local politicians and grassroots organizations.
Campaigning for KMT legislative candidates and boosting Ma’s momentum in challenging electoral districts are the main purposes of the out-of-town committee meetings, while the meetings also serve as a communication channel between Ma and local party members.
However, the effect of the meetings seems to have been limited, with Ma hearing more criticism of his party’s campaign strategies and complaints about the KMT’s ignorance of local issues than it has received support.
Speaking at the committee meeting in Changhua County yesterday, Ma stressed that his government had done much to revive the economy amid the global financial crisis, citing figures to explain his policies over the past three years.
“The economic growth rate reached 10.72 percent last year and investment in Taiwan increased 33 percent ... The figures may be cold numbers, but they represent the people’s sweat and the government’s efforts,” he said.
Ma also touted Taipei’s winning bid to host the 2017 Summer Universiade earlier this month, a success he attributed to the development of cross-strait relations.
Ma’s speech on the nation’s economic performance, cross-strait developments and other achievements did not seem to impress the crowd, which was more concerned with local developments.
KMT Legislator Chen Chieh (陳杰) urged the party to devote more energy to developing Changhua County, while calling for more campaign efforts in central Taiwan ahead of the presidential and legislative elections, as the region has become the main battleground, with neither camp enjoying a comfortable lead.
Similar calls for more attention to local developments and better campaign strategies were also made at previous committee meetings. In Yunlin last week, a local member complained about the government’s poor subsidy program for farmers and said local residents were “indifferent” to the achievements Ma had mentioned in his speech.
KMT Legislator Hsu Shu-po (許舒博) said Ma should speak in “grassroots language” at the local committee meetings, promoting government policies and addressing local issues in ways that local voters “can better understand.”
In Changhua, Greater Kaohsiung, Chiayi, Yunlin, Pingtung and Greater Tainan, where committee meetings have been held, the agricultural and fisheries industries form the main economic pillars and many of the areas have traditionally been strongholds of the pan-green camp.
Ma’s visits to Chiayi and Yunlin counties earlier this month were accompanied by small-scale protests against what residents felt was the government’s ignorance of farmers’ interests.
Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) meetings with several township chiefs of the KMT during her trip to Yunlin and Changhua last week further sparked concerns within the KMT about pan-green attempts to expand its voter base in those areas.
KMT spokesperson Lai Su-ju (賴素如) said the party has been holding out-of-town committee meetings to address local concerns and create opportunities for Ma to communicate with local members face-to-face.