Ma’s campaign staff rally voters ahead of KMT poll

PARTY CONGRESS::Amid fears of a low turnout for today’s vote, Ma’s office is asking the party’s local branches to motivate their members to take part

By Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Jul 20, 2013 - Page 3

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) might be the sole candidate for the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) chairmanship race today, but his campaign staff have been busy trying to ensure a high voter turnout and help him consolidate his power within the party.

Ma attended his final campaign activity in Chiayi City last night, soliciting the support of KMT members as he reiterated his promise to strengthen cooperation between the legislative and executive branches by continuing to double as party chairman.

Despite being the sole contender, Ma began a leave of absence as chairman on June 20 to campaign.

Over the past month, he has met local members in cities and counties nationwide amid growing challenges over his leadership within the KMT.

Several KMT lawmakers, including Alex Tsai (蔡正元) and Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾), as well as younger party members, have urged Ma to promise that he would give up his party post if the KMT fares poorly in next year’s seven-in-one elections.

There have also been reports that members of the party’s local branches in Greater Taichung and several other cities plan either to cast invalid ballots or not take part in the vote today.

Ma’s campaign office spokesman Yang Wei-chung (楊偉中) said the office has not heard of such allegations and that it is focusing its efforts on communicating with local party branches, asking them to motivate members to vote today.

“We are sparing no efforts in the election campaign, and hopefully the election today will have a great turnout,” he said.

The KMT’s Organization and Development Committee estimated that the overall turnout would be about 50 percent. Ma obtained 93 percent of the vote in the chairmanship race four years ago and about 73 percent of the vote in 2005.

The party will set up 521 voting centers around the nation and voting will end at 4pm.

Ma was elected KMT chairman in 2005, but resigned in 2007 when he was embroiled in a corruption case for allegedly misusing his special allowance fund during his tenure as Taipei mayor.

He was succeeded by Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄), who served as party chairman until 2009. Ma was found not guilty of graft charges in 2008 and re-elected as party chairman in 2009.