Electoral defeat exposes KMT’s weaknesses

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-12-2 23:08:01

The Kuomintang (KMT), Taiwan's ruling party, suffered an overwhelming defeat over the weekend in the island's "nine-in-one elections," the worst since 1949.

In the region's largest ever elections, which involved 11,130 local government positions, the KMT only won six out of 22 county and major city leader seats and even lost its traditional strongholds Taipei and Taichung, with the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) seizing 13 seats.

Taiwan residents used their vote to punish the KMT and to remind the ruling party of their dissatisfaction. Currently, the major concerns in Taiwanese society are about fairness and justice, as well as young people's anxiety about their future. But the KMT miscalculated these problems as not severe, and didn't treat them seriously. Besides, too many problems and errors have been revealed in the governance of Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou, as his reforms on oil and power prices, education and public servant system triggered opposition from both his supporters and critics, and cost people's trust in the ruling party.

Moreover, even in regions where the KMT had the upper hand, the results were reversed due to the dissatisfaction of the pan-blue coalition with Ma's measures.

As pressure has been mounting for Ma, also KMT chairman, to step down, he announced Tuesday that he would submit his resignation at the KMT's Central Standing Committee meeting on Wednesday. Taiwan's chief administrator Jiang Yi-huah and KMT secretary-general Tseng Yung-chuan, as well as 81 administrators, have already resigned to take responsibility for the defeat.

But Ma's resignation as the KMT Chairman won't address the main problem facing his party. The KMT chairman, largely a symbolic position, doesn't have much real power compared with the post of Taiwanese leader. The party's rejuvenation should be expected when Ma can delegate powers to a cabinet apt at governance and allow larger space for the cabinet; otherwise a new KMT chairman won't make any difference.

After all, Ma's tight grip of administrative power puts any successor in a feeble position to take any real measures, making the chairman an unfavorable post within the KMT.

In the recent local elections, history was made when Ko Wen-je, a surgeon who ran as an independent, became Taipei mayor after defeating Sean Lien, son of former KMT chairman Lien Chan.

Ko's victory demonstrates the growing distrust of voters even in the KMT stronghold, and it is a result of people voicing their feelings. Ko has caught social trends and the emergence of citizens' movement with wide detestation for business elites and power holders.

However, such third parties in Taiwan are still rather weak. Before him lie challenges to translate his ideas into action, given Taiwan's political climate, and to coordinate with the DPP.

The local elections are seen as a prelude to the general election of Taiwan's leader in 2016, and also a midterm test for the ruling party which usually doesn't turn out well. The latest defeat won't necessarily lead to a similar defeat for the KMT in 2016 given the different topics and requirements for candidates then.

However, with just more than one year to go, the KMT urgently needs to boost the tepid economy and improve its governance. It faces a very tough battle to preserve its rule in the 2016 general election.

The recent elections have attracted a lot of attention from the Chinese mainland since they have a bearing on the cross-Straits relations.

The defeat of the KMT, which has warmed ties with the mainland, won't cause a drastic change to the general situation in the cross-Straits relations, since the peaceful development of relations has become mainstream.

However, challenges or certain difficulties will come up at some time, as the DPP has entrenched advocacy for "Taiwan independence."

In addition to addressing young people's concerns and wealth gap, the KMT should show some courage and take bold actions in cross-Straits relations, such as promoting the service trade agreement, to strengthen its advantages in facing the 2016 election.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Sun Xiaobo based on an interview with Jin Yi, a research fellow with the Institute of Taiwan Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. sunxiaobo@globaltimes.com.cn

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