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September 24, 2017

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Ma takes KMT defeat as warning

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou, who doubles as chairman of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), said yesterday that the latest defeat in the legislative by-elections on Saturday comes as a "severe warning" for the party. But he vowed to continue pushing forward reforms for a better future.

The KMT took just a seat in eastern Hualien County, one of the four seats up for grabs in the by-elections. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party garnered the other three in the counties of Taoyuan, Hsinchu, and Chiayi, although the constituencies of Taoyuan and Hsinchu had previously been considered as KMT strongholds.

The KMT has altogether suffered defeats in four election battles since Ma won a landslide victory in the 2008 presidential election.

Responding to press queries after presiding over a ceremony in southern Tainan City to mark the Feb. 28 Incident of 1947, Ma said the defeat highlights that the KMT has not done enough to win public support. He offered an apology to party supporters.

"It is my firm belief that we should persist in pushing reforms in order to win stronger support. Only by doing so can we complete party integration and forge party unity to win future elections," Ma said.

Most local political analysts were of the opinion that with its latest defeat, the KMT will face an uphill battle in the more crucial mayoral elections for the five special municipalities to be held at the end of the year.

Other KMT officials are also conducting intensive soul-searching over the party's latest defeat.

Party Secretary-General King Pu-tsung has asked KMT branches in key constituencies to immediately review the election results and present reports to be discussed at the party's policy-making Central Standing Committee weekly meeting Wednesday.

The officials said the latest setback will serve as a lesson through which the party will work out a better nomination mechanism for the more crucial mayoral races for the five special municipalities scheduled to take place at the end of this year.

King has said that his party will complete a new nomination mechanism this week, by which it will recruit candidates for the December elections by means of coordination among desired party members first.

Should coordination fail to work in deciding the party candidates, public surveys will be adopted, King said.

"By making the rules of the game clear as early as possible, the party will be able to better prepare for the upcoming contests," the KMT officials said.

Taichung Mayor Jason Hu, who is rated as a top KMT contender to run for the position as new mayor for a special municipality that integrates Taichung City and adjacent Taichung County, is set to meet with King soon for discussion on election issues.

Hu is expected to make a final decision on his candidacy after the meeting with King this week.

He said yesterday that he is optimistic about the forthcoming elections.

But the KMT and the administration should more aggressively promote their policies to grassroots constituencies in the rural areas before December, he said.

In related developments, DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen declined to confirm or deny whether she will run in the municipality elections or seek re-election as DPP head.

Tsai said her top priority on hand now is to fully dedicate to her current job as a party leader.

It is still too early to tell if she will run in any of the five mayoral races in Taipei City, Xinbei City (which is transforming from the status elevation from Taipei County), Taichung City, Tainan City, and Kaohsiung City, she said.

The DPP presently controls the southern cities of Tainan and Kaohsiung.

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