With President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) disapproval rating consistently outpacing his approval rating, several members of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Central Standing Committee on Sunday voiced grave concerns over a possible defining shift in public support for the party in the seven-in-one elections in 2014 and the presidential election in 2016.
Pointing to Ma’s gutter-low approval ratings, which have recently dipped below 15 percent, committee member Chi Kuo-tung (紀國棟) said the number has not only set off alarm bells, but has also dealt a major blow to the party.
“The figure is particularly alarming because pan-blue camp supporters have started resorting to public polls to express their discontent with the party, [which means] negative sentiment may have reached an unbearable extent,” Chi said.
Chi said the KMT’s performance in the 2014 seven-in-one elections and the 2016 presidential election may be jeopardized by the growing dissatisfaction among pan-blue backers with Ma, who also doubles as KMT chairman, if the situation continues without any noticeable improvement.
According to a KMT member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Ma’s dismal popularity rating has become a subject of ridicule at recent private gatherings of party members.
Some have joked about the Ma administration pinning their hopes on a mild “U-shaped” economic recovery next year, as Ma’s approval ratings hovered near the 20 percent mark for the past few months and recorded the lowest-ever figure of 13 percent, the party member said.
“If the Ma administration continues failing to make achievements, Ma’s popularity ratings could only see an ‘L-shaped recovery’ rather than a ‘U-shaped one,’” the member said.
Although Ma managed to secure a second four-year term in the presidential election in January last year, a series of unpopular policies tabled by his administration have spawned a public outcry and driven his approval ratings to new lows as even staunch pan-blue stalwarts gradually turned their backs on the party.
Topping the list of unwelcome policies by the government are the contentious increases in electricity rates and fuel prices, followed by the lifting of an import ban on US beef containing the feed additive ractopamine.
According to a number of polls conducted by the Taiwan Thinktank, Ma’s approval rating among pan-blue backers stood at 66 percent in March and his disapproval rating was only 25 percent. However, in recent months, Ma’s popularity rating among the same group has been outstripped by his unpopularity.
A similar trend has also been seen in the public polls carried out by TVBS. Ma’s approval and disapproval ratings among people who identified themselves as KMT supporters were at about 60 percent and 20 percent respectively in March. However, several polls conducted by the media corporation since September found that Ma only garnered an average approval rating of 30 percent, far below his average disapproval rating of 50 percent.
Chi attributed Ma’s unpopularity to his administration falling short of public expectations and to the aftermath of one of its pension-reform policies to limit coverage of the controversial year-end bonus for government retirees.
KMT Central Standing Committee member Yao Chiang-lin (姚江臨) said the aforementioned poll results reflected most pan-blue supporters’ disappointment with Ma for failing to meet their expectations.
Yao also voiced concern that this discontent could turn into a long-term opposition against the party, which he said could jeopardize the party’s chances of winning in the 2014 elections.
Another committee member, Hsiao Ching-tien (蕭景田), said the dismal approval ratings underscored the Ma administration’s unsatisfactory economic performance and problematic policymaking.
“It is not too late for the administration to turn things around if it engages in serious self-reflection. Otherwise, there will be no one left to come to its rescue,” Hsiao said.