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Snags in the cross-strait relationship

Wu succeeded Ma as chairman of the KMT in opposition in 2006 after the latter was indicted for corruption, charged with misappropriating his expense account while he was mayor of Taipei for eight years. Lien, Wu and Chiang helped Ma win the 2008 presidential election. And they are ready and more than willing to continue helping the president usher in a new era of cooperation between Taiwan and China.

Ma was absolved of all corruption charges immediately after his landslide victory on March 22 last year. Now he is considering making the KMT as clean as he wishes by doubling as its chief or putting up a proxy.

His one other purpose, which is equally essential, is to get into the saddle to effectively control often contentious and sometimes rebellious KMT lawmakers who form a more than two-thirds majority in the Legislative Yuan headed by his one-time political rival Wang Jin-pyng.

That is easier said than done.

It was just a snap of the fingers for Chiang Kai-shek to whip all KMT lawmakers into line, for he was, well, the generalissimo. His son Chiang Ching-kuo was able to control the parliament because practically all the parliamentarians were lawmakers for life elected in China in 1948. The generalissimo ruled Taiwan as director-general of the servile KMT. His son ruled as chairman of the obedient KMT. Lee could afford to let dissenting KMT legislators bolt his democratic KMT, which never lost power before a split in 2000. James Soong revolted against Lee, quitting the KMT to run for president. The split made it possible for Chen Shui-bian to get elected president and form a minority government.

Chen was able to exert full control over his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) long before he doubled as its chairman. He was a great fund raiser. He raised untold millions of dollars to subsidize every public office holder of his party. Remember his daughter shouted at paparazzi who asked her if Chen was passing out bribe money here and there? “Who in the DPP hasn't received money from my father?!” the former first daughter cried out.

That's how the former president managed to coerce his party into submission. Incidentally, he is standing trial for forgery, corruption and money laundering, charged with pocketing a substantial part of the spoils.

Can President Ma emulate the generalissimo, Chiang Ching-kuo, Lee Teng-hui or Chen Shui-bian? Ma can't. He can't declare martial law. He didn't inherit the KMT leadership like Chiang Ching-kuo did from his father. He can't afford to let KMT leaders leave the party as Lee did. Lee could, because the party still had lots of money to help its candidates for public office. The KMT is poor now.

Can Ma raise just as much money as Chen did? He isn't cut out to be a fund raiser.

Perhaps the only help Ma can offer politicians of the ruling party is his presidential coattails on which they may hope to ride. The coattails, however, are getting wider apart and shorter as Taiwan is struggling to weather the worldwide financial crisis.

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