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Time has come for Ma to resign as KMT chairman

Lai Su-ju, a Taipei City councilor doubling as chief of staff of Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou, was arrested last Thursday for bribery in connection with the snowballing Twin Towers scandal. President Ma apologized to members of his ruling party and the nation for his KMT chief of staff's involvement in the bidding for construction of the Twin Towers, designed by Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki to rise as Taiwan's tallest skyscrapers next to Taipei 101.

She was charged with taking a bribe of NT$1 million from Taipei Gateway International Development Co. Ltd., which won the bidding but later gave it up for failure to arrange the required financing.

After her arrest, Lai resigned as Ma's KMT chief of staff and the Taipei District Court reversed on Saturday its decision to release the councilor on bail, ordering her detention for further investigation. She is being held incommunicado and may be detained for two months before the prosecution completes its investigation and decides to indict her. Her detention for bribery charges, the third corruption case involving top KMT officials in a mere nine months, touched off a call for Ma to give up his party chairmanship, but he has reiterated his decision to run for another term.

There is little reason why Ma should seek another term, which quite a number of KMT leaders regard as against the spirit of its charter, if not the letter. For one thing, Ma has lost the rationale for why he should serve as party chairman.

Ma wasn't the party chairman when he won his landslide election in 2008. He was before his indictment for misuse of public funds, and quit as chairman to run for president. During his first term as president, he decided to double as party chairman to beat into line those unruly KMT lawmakers, who hold a majority in the Legislative Yuan. He ran for and won the chairmanship in 2009, but the unruly legislators have remained just as unruly, if not more.

The president wants reform. To make the reform successful, he believes that, as party chairman, he has to whip dissenting lawmakers into order. But he has long failed to tame rowdy parliamentarians of his own party. Can he accomplish his self-assigned mission impossible for the next three years? Of course not.

Ma should know that the time has come for him to quit. There is no point in remaining under constant fire as an incompetent party chairman, whose only redeeming trait is his personal integrity. As a matter of fact, he should have announced that he would step down when he made his public apology regarding Lai. He still has a chance to make that announcement to win the respect of his supporters.

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