The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus’ failure to pass a draft bill on Friday that would allow the import of US beef containing ractopamine residue was a blow to President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) leadership, as his repeated calls for the bill to clear the legislative floor were in vain.
Lifting the ban on US beef containing traces of the livestock feed additive has been a priority of Ma since his re-election in January.
In his capacity as KMT chairman, Ma demanded the full support of the KMT caucus on the bill and threatened to discipline those who did not vote along the party line.
While some KMT lawmakers took a hard line and tried to force a vote on the amendment to the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) during the opposition’s boycott of the vote last week, a substantial number of KMT lawmakers were clearly reluctant to force a vote.
“KMT lawmakers are unwilling to follow Ma’s orders because of pressure from voters, and Ma’s failure to control his party caucus will make him a lame duck president if he does not improve communication with party legislators,” National Sun Yat-sen University political science professor Liao Da-chi (廖達琪) said.
Although Ma repeatedly vowed to initiate bold reforms when he began a second term on May 20 and stressed the necessity of the bill on US beef imports being passed to improve the nation’s trade relations with the US and other nations, KMT lawmakers are reluctant to cooperate due to the government’s poor communication with the legislative branch, she said.
“Ma is facing a great challenge over his leadership early in his second term, and he must learn to communicate with legislators more effectively. Otherwise he won’t be able to get his orders out of the Presidential Office,” Liao said.
The bill on US beef imports is one of a number of controversial policies that have sparked growing public discontent and dissent from within the party. The unpopular policies, from hikes in fuel and electricity prices to the securities and futures tax, have caused Ma’s approval ratings to plummet and many KMT politicians to distance themselves from him.
Ma’s critics describe him as a stubborn and arrogant politician who lacks communication and negotiation skills, both as president and KMT chairman, and the traits have taken a toll on his leadership within the party at the beginning of his second term, as KMT lawmakers brush off the government’s attempts to seek unanimous support from the party caucus for reform proposals.
To call for party unity, Ma attended the KMT’s caucus meeting on June 7 and asked party legislators to ensure that the bill on US beef pass the legislature by the end of this legislative session.
However, the caucus meeting, held to strengthen communication between the executive branch and legislative caucus, lasted only an hour. Ma left the room immediately after making a speech, without listening to lawmakers’ responses.
The brief meeting on June 7 served as an example of Ma’s lack of effort at communicating with party members, a KMT Central Standing Committee member who wished to remain anonymous said.
The KMT caucus has suggested that Ma and the Cabinet should explain the government’s stance on the US beef issue to party members, but Ma insisted the government did not have any pre-established stance on the issue, leaving party lawmakers confused about the Ma administration’s position.
“President Ma needs to better explain the government’s stance to party members and understand party lawmakers’ pressure from voters. He cannot expect full support from party members by simply asking us to consider the party’s overall interests,” the anonymous KMT Central Standing Committee member said.
National Dong Hwa University political analyst Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒) said Ma should initiate talks with KMT lawmakers, seek their support and widen his small decision-making team to strengthen party unity.
If Ma does not find a way to improve relations with party legislators, his leadership will be further weakened and the administration’s credibility will be seriously damaged, Shih said.
It took director Chong Keat Aun (張吉安) nearly a decade to complete Snow in Midsummer (五月雪), a deft chronicle of Malaysia’s May 13 incident told through one woman’s search for her brother and father. Although only his second feature, it led the field at yesterday’s Golden Horse Awards with nine nominations. Chong said it had been a struggle to get people to share their memories of the intercommunal violence following the 1969 national election, known among the country’s ethnic Chinese community as “513.” “My father, for example, would shut the conversation down if my mother or grandma even mentioned the topic,” Chong said
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday said that a surge in respiratory illnesses in China has been caused by at least seven types of pathogens, and small children, elderly people and immunocompromised people should temporarily avoid unnecessary visits to China. The recent outbreak of respiratory illnesses in China is mainly in the north and among children, CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) said on Monday. Data released by the Chinese National Health Commission on Sunday showed that among children aged one to four, the main pathogens were influenza viruses and rhinoviruses, while among children aged five to 14, the main pathogens
A new poll of Taiwanese voters found the top opposition candidate for president jumping past the ruling party’s hopeful into the lead position ahead of January’s election — the latest twist in a drama-filled race. Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) had an approval rating of 31.9 percent versus 29.2 percent for the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential candidate Vice President William Lai (賴清德), the poll released yesterday by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation showed. The Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate, New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), ranked third with 23.6 percent, according to the survey conducted
A New Taipei City hotpot restaurant could be fined after a rat dropped from the ceiling and landed on a customer’s plate last week, the New Taipei City Department of Health said yesterday after conducting an inspection. A woman recently posted on the “I am a Banciao resident” (我是板橋人) social media group saying that she had been eating with a friend at Chien Tu Shabu Shabu Hotpot Restaurant’s Shuangshi B branch in Banciao District (板橋). “While still eating, a big rat suddenly dropped down from the ceiling, landing on a plate next to a hotpot,” she said. “Later on, a member of