Ma must remain distant from China
By Frank Ching
December 8, 2010, 10:45 am TWN
The ruling party of President Ma Ying-jeou — in an election carefully watched in Beijing — managed to win three of five mayoral races in Taiwan, reversing a losing streak in legislative by-elections since Ma's presidential election triumph in 2008.
Even so, the Kuomintang won far fewer votes island-wide than the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, suggesting that the president may have problems in 2012, when he will run for a second term.
A post-election poll conducted by the Global Views Survey Research Center showed President Ma's public confidence index dropping to 47.5 percent, putting him behind Tsai Ing-wen, chairperson of the DPP, with 51.2 percent.
It is evident that the DPP has managed a comeback despite the problems of former president and party leader Chen Shui-bian, who was sentenced last month to a total of 19 years in prison on corruption charges.
The two-party system seems to be working well so far, with the long-entrenched KMT losing power in 2000 only to regain it in 2008, when Ma won in a landslide by garnering over 7.6 million votes to 5.4 million votes for his opponent.
In last month's mayoral elections, however, while the status quo was maintained, with the opposition keeping two seats and the KMT retaining three, the DPP received 49.9 percent of all votes cast, compared to 44.5 percent for the KMT. The rest went to independents.
The overall decline in KMT electoral support means that President Ma will certainly not be able to accede to Beijing's desire for political discussions on relations between Taiwan and mainland China.
With the vast majority of Taiwan's people favoring maintenance of the status quo, or de facto independence, there is little support for negotiations that Beijing hopes will lead to political reunification. Any sign that President Ma is thinking of such talks in a second term could jeopardize his re-election prospects.
While the KMT continued to be strong in the north and the DPP in the south, the opposition party has made notable progress.
In Tainan, for example, the DPP won by a margin of over 200,000 votes, much bigger than in previous elections.
In Kaohsiung, the incumbent DPP mayor, Chen Chu, won in a landslide, receiving 52.8 percent of the vote, while the KMT candidate came last in a three-way race, getting only 20.5 percent of the vote — sharply down from previous elections. This means that the DPP has deepened and strengthened its base of support.