Although there has been a precipitous drop in President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) approval rating, it is all but certain that he will stand again for the chairmanship of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) next year, meaning that he will maintain tight control of both party and state, political observers said.
According to KMT sources, after the policy of increasing fuel and electricity prices stirred up public discontent, some party members suggested during a meeting of the Central Standing Committee that Ma should concentrate on presidential politics and step down as party chairperson.
Such a proposal is unprecedented and has fueled rumors that there is a certain degree of jockeying for position going on inside the KMT as Ma begins his second and last term as president, sources said.
Ma’s supporters within the party, led by Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), have proposed amending party regulations and thereby providing a legal foundation for Ma to double as the KMT party chairperson.
Article 17 of the KMT charter stipulates only that a chairperson should be elected by all party members. It makes no mention as to whether the president and the party chairperson can be the same person.
Ma ran for the KMT chairmanship in 2009 after stepping down from the position in 2007 amid investigations into his alleged abuse of a special mayoral allowance fund during his two terms as Taipei mayor.
Some within the party have said that the proposed amendment to party regulations could be just an excuse as whoever raised the issue could have done so for the good of the party, or as a way to pave his own path to power.
Party sources said most KMT members felt Ma would definitely seek re-election as party chairman next year, because failure to consolidate his authority in the party would mean, “he wouldn’t just be a lame duck; he would be unable to walk at all.”
Meanwhile, Chiayi City Mayor Huang Min-huei (黃敏惠) said that Ma was unlikely to become a lame duck, adding that the party would not let him become one.
“Taiwan cannot continue expending effort on internal division; for the nation we should let President Ma do his job and avoid the him becoming a lame duck when promoting policies,” said Huang, who is also one of the KMT’s deputy chairmen.
Greater Taichung Deputy Mayor Shyu Jong-shyong (徐中雄) of the KMT said Ma faced the problem of becoming a lame duck only because he does not currently enjoy a high level of support in the polls.
Noting that former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) did not have such a problem when he was president and KMT chairman and managed to retain a great deal of influence prior to handing over power, Shyu said that Ma’s problem was that he lacked a strong presence.
Ma should strengthen the functions of the Central Standing Committee and seek to generate more support, Shyu said, adding that in the future, the president should pay more attention to policy formulation to avoid giving the impression that he is indecisive.
Only then would supporters have solid ground on which to support Ma, Shyu said.
If Ma were re-elected KMT chairman, his tenure would be extended to 2017, political observers said, adding that although pro-Ma supporters generally feel that Ma will not appoint a successor, he could still play a decisive role in anointing the party’s presidential candidate for the 2016 presidential election.