Ma Ying-jeou Must Consider Public Sentiment a Warning
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 29, 2011
Tsai Ing-wen has won the DPP presidential primaries, and will represent the DPP in the 2012 presidential race. On the same day, President Ma Ying-jeou received the KMT's blessing in his quest for a second term. President Ma trailed Tsai Ing-wen in polls commissioned by the DPP. He even found himself in a draw or trailing slightly in polls conducted by the media. These results should have put President Ma and the Blue Camp on high alert.
The presidential election is still nine months away. What will happen to public opinion remains difficult to foresee. President Ma Ying-jeou enjoys the advantage of the incumbency. He has a variety of administrative resources at his disposal. During his three years in office, he has liberated the ROC from the previous two administrations' Closed Door Policy. The economy has gradually recovered. So why does the public think less of him than it does of the opposition party leader, who is guilty of endless flip-flopping? Is this not a paradox?
According to the averaged result of five primary polls commissioned by the DPP, Ma Ying-jeou trails Tsai Ing-wen by 7.5 percentage points, and Su Tseng-chang by 7.3 percentage points. The gap is enormous. The DPP changed its usual tactic of "waiting by the phone" and the "institutional effect" created by poll takers. But the fact that Ma Ying-jeou trailed by Su Tseng-chang and Tsai Ing-wen by so much, is indeed worth pondering. According to a poll conducted by this newspaper, 36% of all respondents supported Ma Ying-jeou, and 37% of all respondents supported Tsai Ing-wen. The difference of one percentage point was within the sampling error. This means the two candidates are currently evenly matched. This means Ma Ying-jeou enjoys no advantage at all.
This result was a huge surprise for the Blue Camp. Not long ago, the Central Election Commission announced that the presidential election would be combined with the legislative primaries. The Blue Camp hoped to hitch a ride on Ma Ying-jeou's coat tails. But now Ma Ying-jeou enjoys no advantage at all. He may even be at a disadvantage. In which case his "coat tails" could become an albatross. Candidates could end up throwing good money after bad. The Green Camp expressed no objection to the two elections being combined. They already realized this could be the case. They decided to gamble and to try to win both elections. Both the ruling and opposition parties are betting the farm.
The KMT seems content with itself. Ma Ying-jeou is behind in the polls. Alarm bells should be ringing. Consider this newspaper's poll results. The key is President Ma's governing style. Ma Ying-jeou trailed Tsai Ing-wen on matters of "policy resolve." Ma Ying-jeou's score was 21%. Tsai Ing-wen's was 36%. On the surface, for an opposition party not in power to score higher on policy resolve, may seem contradictory. But Tsai Ing-wen smoothed over factional troubles within the DPP. She led the party to a string of victories. She led the party out from under the shadow of Chen Shui-bian's corruption. She won over the elderly, the middle-aged, and youth. This constituted an impressive feat of leadership. By contrast, Ma Ying-jeou remains a "by the book" person, to a fault. He often becomes fixated on trivialities. When recruiting talent, he lacks audacity. He often finds himself in no-win, "damned if you do and damned if you don't" situations. All these convince people that he is an irresolute and indecisive chief executive. This is a problem he must realize and ponder.
Current polls provide only a rough impression of public sentiment. Voting will take place in nine months. By then voters may have reconsidered the pros and cons of each candidate, and arrived at different conclusions. The two candidates still have a long battle ahead of them. Ma Ying-jeou has won considerable public approval for boosting the island's economy, and for his handling of cross-Strait affairs. Clear political accomplishments such as these are something Tsai Ing-wen cannot match. More importantly, the DPP espouses radical ideology and flip-flops on cross-Strait policy. It incites communal group hatred and refuses to engage in honest soul-searching. If the DPP fails to address these matters, they will become stumbling blocks for Tsai Ing-wen on her way to the presidency. Which of the two candidates will emerge victorious? That may be decided by issues larger than the two candidates' personal traits.
As a leader, Ma Ying-jeou has a better sense of balance and a greater sense of responsibility. But he and his team are too rigid and too indecisive. They waffle constantly, They lack "true grit." In particular, Ma repeatedly panders to the opposition, while ignoring his own Blue Camp and centrist voters. This has led to an erosion of support from his core constituency. The polls have revealed this chink in his armor. Tsai Ing-wen's cool demeanor meanwhile, has changed the DPP's violent nature. She has helped normalize party politics. But just exactly who has a parasitical attachment to whom? This remains a worrying question. Is the change in the DPP's character a qualitative change, or merely an illusion? Will Tsai Ing-wen turn out to be nothing more than an "accidental tourist?"
A random poll, after all, is not an election. Before candidates they can persuade voters to cast their ballots, they must undergo more stringent tests. President Ma must confront his loss of core support. The public has repeatedly pointed out a plethora of problems. He must no longer dismiss them lightly. Leave aside other matters, and consider his choice of running mate. The DPP's more open policy has given many aspirants hope. Ma Ying-jeou, on the other hand, must choose either Siew or Wu, He can offer nothing new. Once again, he may find himself paling in comparison to Tsai Ing-wen.
2011.04.29 01:55 am