The latest Cabinet reshuffle highlights President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) attempts to strengthen cooperation between the administrative and legislative branches to push forward more government reforms, while seeking to consolidate his leadership of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) amid an internal power struggle ahead of mayoral elections next year and the presidential election in 2016, analysts said.
There have been speculations about a reshuffle of the Cabinet, led by outgoing Premier Sean Chen (陳冲), over the Executive Yuan’s poor execution of government policies and lack of communication with the KMT’s legislative caucus, as well as that Ma’s record-low approval rate and opposition against his re-election bid as KMT chairman have prompted him to start a Cabinet reshuffle, and to replace Chen with Vice Premier Jiang Yi-hua (江宜樺).
“Chen has apparently lost Ma’s trust over his handling of major government policies, from fuel price increases to pension reform plans, which sparked public discontent. Jiang, on the other hand, has demonstrated great skill in leading the pension reform task force and Ma is hoping that he will better execute government policies and stabilize the political situation,” Ming Chuan University professor Chen Chao-chien (陳朝建) said.
Jiang, 53, emerged as a promising politician under the Ma administration after he proved his capability in executing government policies during his term as minister of the interior. Ma hand-picked him to serve as vice premier and by becoming premier, he will assure his political strength as a preferred successor to Ma and a threat to other presidential hopefuls in the KMT, including Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) and New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫).
As the Cabinet reshuffle sparked new discussions on the KMT power struggle and its election strategy ahead of the local government-head elections next year and the presidential election in 2016, Chen Chao-chien said Ma is using Jiang’s appointment to contain the forces behind Chu, Hau and Wu, as well as former Taipei EasyCard Corp chairman Sean Lien (連勝文), son of former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰).
“Aside from seeking historical recognition in his last term as president, Ma also needs to prevent a power struggle within the KMT, because he is trying to take full control of the party and get re-elected as party chairman,” Chen Chao-chien said.
Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒), a professor at National Dong Hwa University, said the timing of the Cabinet reshuffle showed Ma is desperate to raise his approval ratings and consolidate his leadership in the KMT. Jiang taking over the premiership also reflected the KMT’s lack of talent and Ma’s limited decision-making circle.
“The selection of Jiang as premier is not surprising. This latest personnel reshuffle only confirms Ma’s habit of choosing officials with an academic background from a limited talent pool,” he said.
Aside from the appointment of a new premier, Chen Yen-hui (陳延輝), a professor at National Taiwan Normal University’s Graduate Institute of Political Science, said the reshuffle of the financial bodies under the Executive Yuan were just as crucial, as the government must prioritize its efforts to ensure the nation’s economic recovery.
“The biggest problem facing the nation is still the economy and Jiang, unlike Sean Chen, is not an expert in economics and finance. People who can help address the nation’s economic issues is what the Ma administration should be looking for,” Chen Yen-hui said.
Chen Chao-chien agreed and added that the Ma administration should place more importance on the follow-up reshuffle in the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Economic Affairs, and find suitable personnel to continue efforts in reviving the economy.