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United Daily News: Ma re-elected to head KMT amid rising discontent

2013/07/21 16:59:35

President Ma Ying-jeou was re-elected as chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT) Saturday amid public outrage over the death of a conscript under suspicious circumstances and the Miaoli County government's forced demolition of four homes.

Though Ma won more than 90 percent of the votes in a race in which he ran unopposed, both the president and KMT party members are well aware that the high percentage of votes cannot help his administration overcome the perception that it is unable to deal with problems.

Ma garnered 80,000 fewer votes Saturday than in the 2009 KMT chairman election, and the percentage of invalid ballots cast rose to 8.1 percent this year from 5.8 percent in 2009 -- a sober reminder that many grassroots KMT members wanted to teach Ma a lesson.

Ma has had some positive accomplishments in foreign policy: the improvement in cross-Taiwan Strait relations, the signing of an Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with China, and the nearly 100 countries offering visa-waiver treatment to Taiwan.

But he has continued to lose ground in his handling of domestic affairs, especially his handling of Taiwan's stagnant economy and his tendency to deal with insignificant issues while ignoring the bigger picture.

Take the recent signing of a service trade agreement with China for example. While the public criticized the lack of communication between government agencies before the pact was signed, Ma was mumbling about how the pact would not achieve its anticipated effect due to the pact's "lack of liberalization."

As a national leader, Ma's problem is not that he lacks power or that party members consistently hold different views than him, but that he lacks the kind of leadership that can discover talent and lead society. He has even turned a deaf ear to his senior and national policy advisers.

In his victory speech Saturday, Ma described the chairmanship as a burden, calling it a position that cannot make one wealthy but that does confer heavy responsibility.

That and other comments failed to address the public's discontent or demonstrate even the slightest bit of self-reflection on why 8.1 percent of the ballots cast Saturday were invalid.

KMT members will need to offer Ma more constructive criticism and assistance in the coming months or the KMT may face a brutal battle in 2014's 7-in-1 elections. (Editorial abstract -- July 21, 2013)

(By Ann Chen)
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