Four Consecutive Blue Camp Defeats:
Why Public Sentiment Shifted So Quickly
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 1, 2010
During the 2/27 legislative by-election, Democratic Progressive Party candidates took three more seats. Since September, the KMT has lost four seats in a row. Over the past two years, the Ma administration has lost five seats in a row. Apart from the legislative by-election for Taipei's Da-an District, the KMT has failed to win a single election. This includes the Yunlin County legislative by-elections and the three in one primary elections. The KMT has not won a single election beginning with the three legislative by-elections beginning with the Chinese New Year and ending with the four legislative by-elections seats following the Chinese New Year. It made no difference whether the party chairman was Ma or Wu; whether the party secretary-general was Wu, Tsan, or Ching; and whether the premier was Liu or Wu.
Especially following last year's three in one elections, the public has had less and less patience with the Ma administration. If the public mood does not change, the five year end municipal elections could become a harbinger of the 2012 presidential election. Such a change is difficult to imagine. Think back to the ruling party change in 2000. The Chen regime went from its zenith to its nadir. The change began during the third year of his first term. Chen family corruption, including the corporate bribery scandals, had long ago come to light. From the very first day of Chen's second term, corruption scandals followed him around like shadows and rapidly snowballed. According to prosecutors the sums involved range from several billions to tens of billions of NT dollars. The ruling party changed in 2008. The person responsible for overthrowing the Chen regime was not Ma Ying-jeou, but Chen himself. Nevertheless, before the Chen regime's fall, it lingered eight long years. The actual amounts it embezzled are still unknown.
Just what happened to the Ma administration? Why did it lose public support so quickly? Did the problem lie with President Ma Ying-jeou? Or did it lie with the KMT? Whether the problem lies with Ma or with the KMT, neither is new to the political scene. Both Ma and the KMT are well known to the public. Ma Ying-jeou is known for his integrity and kindness. This has allowed him to rise rapidly amidst public anger with the Chen regime. Unfortunately the KMT has failed to adapt to the new political environment since losing power eight years ago. Ma Ying-jeou has failed to realize he needed to offer greater leadership. Only better leadership can undo the collapse of ethics and professionalism precipitated by eight years of Chen regime misrule. Ma Ying-jeou failed to change. Society, meanwhile, did. The public has clearly lost faith in the Ma administration.
When the media criticizes KMT factionalism, it is easy to forget that Democratic Progressive Party political struggles are also plagued by factional strife. Take Chiayi County. Chen Ming-wen won the legislative by-election. Chen hails from a typical Lee Teng-hui era KMT faction. During the Chen era he cozied up to the DPP. He was thereby "rehabilitated." After serving as county executive for eight years, he passed the baton to Chan Hua-kuan, then ran for the national legislature. Such is factional succession. Similar incidents have taken place in Yunlin County with the Chang Jung-we clan. The Chang clan was unable to count on rehabiliation by the Blue Camp. Even less could it ensure political succession by supporting Blue Camp factions or clans. Take Hsinchu County. Cheng Yung-chin served as County Executive for eight years. But he still wanted to pick his successor. When the Kuomintang ruled that this was unacceptable, Cheng quit the party and ran as an independent. First he violated party discipline, then he endorsed his own brother. Given such antics, the Kuomintang defeat during the legislative by-election was entirely predictable.
Why are Blue Camp factions so incorrigible? Why are they able to force the KMT to compromise? Why not hand power over to others? Why do Green Camp factions yield to the DPP? Why is the DPP able to remain resolute?
Even more ironic is how the Chen regime was able to coopt local factions, by resorting to both threats and inducements. The issuance of judical threats were coupled with offers of political pork. By contrast, the KMT is unable to offer its factions either rewards or punishments. It must allow its factions to do what they wish. The sad fact is that the factions are the winners, and the party is the loser.
The Ma administration's ratings have fallen. From the first day he took office, he began appointing professionals to his cabinet. But he allowed the old Kuomintang to maintain its hold on power. The KMT ignored the government's orders, making it impossible for the professionals in his cabinet to operate. Typhoon Morakot was merely the straw that broke the Liu cabinet's back. The Wu cabinet meanwhile, made too many sacrifices in professionalism for the sake of electoral considerations. The Wu cabinet could think only about reducing the impact of its policies on the election resuts. It successfully amended the Local Government Act in the Legislative Yuan. This slightly boosted morale within the KMT. But KMT and local faction insiders who ridiculed the KMT or President Ma far outnumbered those attempting to unite the presidential office, the executive branch, and the party. As a result, recruiting cabinet officials has been difficult. Even recruiting candidates for the five municipal elections has been difficult. Candidates fall over each other seeking the nomination for KMT owned electoral districts. But no one is willing to don armor for non KMT owned electoral districts. Even during the eight years the KMT was in the opposition. dedicated party members were willing to make sacrifices. But two short years after being in power, even this remnant of fighting spirit has evaporated.
The most important characteristic of a leader is a undying loyalty. As Ma Ying-jeou sits in the Presidential Palace, has he asked himself why his best fighters have vanished? If the Democratic Progressive Party gains three more seats, it will merely hold 33 seats in the Legislative Yuan. This will not change the balance of power in the legislature. But it will clearly reveal that the ruling party's political strength has taken another hit. Controversy has already erupted within the Blue Camp over the cabinet reshuffle. The media has repeately offered similar suggestions. If such suggestions fall on deaf ears, if the same old faces remain in the cabinet, the situation will continue to deteriorate. The Ma administration must appreciate the significance of the new political climate. A single word, "corruption," toppled the Chen regime. Let us hope that in 2012, a single word, "obtuse," does not topple the Ma administration.