Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Will the KMT Bring Down Ma?

The KMT is fundamentally a divided party in the midst of a crisis that dates back to the death of Chiang Ching-guo, and nothing illustrates this better than the constant whispering against Ma Ying-jeou. Consider the recent spate of media reports in the Chinese and English press about how the KMT is going to run Lien Chan (again!) for the Presidency in 2008, with either Wang or Ma at his side:

According to the newspaper report, plan A would be for Lien and Ma to pair up for the presidential election. The KMT would then push a constitutional amendment and change the governmental system to a parliamentary one so that the main authority would be the premier.

As part of that supposed plan, the prime candidate for the post of premier would be Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).

Plan B would pair Lien and Wang for the presidential ticket, with Ma becoming premier once the KMT returned to power.

Huang said he he had not heard of such plans and urged KMT members to stick together during the current crisis, referring to Ma's alleged involvement in the misuse of the Taipei mayor's special allowance fund.

The KMT has denied that any of this discussion has taken place, but the denials do not sound very convincing, at least to my ear. Note several things I've discussed before -- the fundamental split here is between the Deep Blue ideologues, whose man at the moment is KMT Chairman and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, and the KMT Machine politicians like current legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng and two-time presidential loser Lien Chan, now the Party's Grand Old Man. At the moment the group of KMT legislators known as the "southern legislators" (read Taiwanese KMT) is allied to the machine politicians (David at Jujuflop reported on them earlier this year) against the "Ma troop" -- the pro-Ma KMT legislators in the legislature. Wang is also very close to pan-Blue ally and PFP Chairman James Soong, who has been very critical of Ma, his main rival for Deep Blue support, and who has a deep base of support within the rival KMT. How does Ma stand with the KMT Machine? After Ma was elected Chairman in July of 2005, the Taipei Times noted:

Ma has long been isolated from the party's central administration, said analysts, pointing out that many of the party's upper-level officials, from over 60 of its legislators to high-level administrative officers such as the party's Central Executive Committee head Chang Che-shen (張哲琛), expressed support for Wang during his campaign.
The Machine does not like Ma -- and many will take note of the fact that Ma's favorite lost the KMT nomination for Taipei mayor, beaten by Hau Lung-bin, whose father is the corrupt old KMT authoritarian Hau Pei-tsun, who tried to stop Lee Teng-hui's democratization program. And now that Ma has shown poor judgment in handling the mayoral funds (I've always said that streak of arrogance of his might be his downfall) the whispering against him within the KMT will only be gain traction. Recall too that Ma beat Wang badly in the KMT chairmanship election last year, and Wang has been itching for revenge. Further, recall that Wang is not an elected politician -- he holds his position in the legislature because he was appointed as one of the KMT's at-large candidates, a tribute to his excellent standing with the Party insiders, who are mostly Machine politicians. When the legislature shrinks in 2007, Wang might have a much harder time gaining a seat. Hence his interest in securing another future.

Another issue, somewhat separate, relates to the KMT's struggle to destroy the Presidency. President Lee made two important changes in the 1990s. First, he made the Presidency directly-elected -- to prevent rival Hau Pei-tsun from defeating him in an election controlled by Party insiders -- and second, he made the premier appointed by the President instead of appointed out of the legislature. By doing so, he accrued more power to the Presidency. A directly-elected President and a Presidential system gives the advantage to the DPP, which does well at the national level, while a parliamentary system with the Premier selected by the Parliament gives the advantage the KMT, which still controls the local level elections. Observe then, that the KMT's plan, according to the media, would be:

"The KMT would then push a constitutional amendment and change the governmental system to a parliamentary one so that the main authority would be the premier."
Just as I've been saying all along.

Finally, as a longtime democracy supporter, I continue to marvel at the Blue (KMT + PFP) capacity to snatch defeat from potential victory. In 2000 and 2004 they blew elections they were heavily favored to win by running Lien Chan, who running as the KMT candidate in 2000 barely mustered a quarter of the vote. Lien is probably the most widely detested major politician in Taiwan, widely perceived as ugly and uncongenial, and identified as a wife beater several years ago. The KMT could hardly do worse than to pick Lien as its candidate for 2008. But with Ma now taking hits, first from the Shih Ming-te anti-Chen campaign, which exposed Ma as irresolute and hypocritical, and now from the receipt forgery case, Ma may be looking vulnerable to KMT insiders. Look for more ghosts from the Machine making nightmares for Ma Ying-jeou.

14 comments:

Sun Bin said...

1) But Ma has only himself to blame for his crisis.
2) However, I think we should agree Ma is the "less evil" among KMt, and perhaps among most politicians in Taiwan -- i.e. we all loath Lien Chan and Soong, and Wang JP is just from the same old clan
3) The sad thing about Taiwan politics is the 'ethnic division'. The only advantage for Lien/Wang over Ma is that their grandparents moved to the island a lot earlier than Ma. and that has made a lot of difference.

---
as to parliamentary vs presidential+legislative demoracy, aren't we talking about UK vs UK system? they could both work, and they could both fail. It seems it is not the fault of the system. We may see another plethora of problem if switched to the UK/Japan system. OTOH, what is so fundamentally different between US and TW that demand a change?

Sun Bin said...

IMO Ma will be able to move on to 2008. The best strategy for him is to resign from the mayorship right now (better yet, a couple weeks ago). Then he could go for election again now that people can re-decide after absorbing all the new information (receipt forgery/etc).

CSB should also have done the same -- but he does not have the confidence.

After Dec 9 we would know more. My guess is that KMT will win by landslide unaffected by the problem Ma is facing.
This is not a bad thing for DPP, since it gives DPP more time to re-group and be prepared for 2008.

Michael Turton said...

1) But Ma has only himself to blame for his crisis.

On one level, yes. He should not have stupidly transferred money into his own accounts. On another, I'm beginning to wonder if the Eric Chen investigation into President Chen was meant to fail, and the whole thing is actually an attack on Ma. That indictment is weak.

2) However, I think we should agree Ma is the "less evil" among KMt, and perhaps among most politicians in Taiwan -- i.e. we all loath Lien Chan and Soong, and Wang JP is just from the same old clan

Perhaps....

3) The sad thing about Taiwan politics is the 'ethnic division'. The only advantage for Lien/Wang over Ma is that their grandparents moved to the island a lot earlier than Ma. and that has made a lot of difference.

Well, yes, because it has made Wang into a Taiwanese who is widely seen to identify with the island, while Ma is a Chinese who identifies with China as the source of all that is good. They have two different identities.

The ethnic division is sad, but the KMT can stop it any time it wants by identifying with Taiwan rather than China.

I totally agree with your advice on Ma. If Ma resigns now, he leaves the KMT chairmanship too. Then he becomes just another politician and doesn't have to have an opinion on everything. He isn't involved in any sordid politics. He can even run for at-large legislator next year just to keep himself in the public eye.

On the other hand, once out of office, Ma can't protect himself. And I know for a fact that more will come out.

Ma's fundamental weaknesses, like Chen's are coming back to haunt him. Both of them should have moved rapidly to crush their opposition once in office, Ma against the Machine politicians, Chen against the Blue leadership. But they didn't, and now the Bad Guys are gathering.'

Mihael

Anonymous said...

Ma said things at certain times that made me really believe he is a good and rational politician, which I still basically believe. The unfortunate thing for him is that the depose Chen campaign made it totally obvious that the deep blue element can control what he says and does all too easily (not sure of the ugly details as to exactly why that's the case...). However, I've wondered whether the deep blue would be able to control him so effectively if he were president.

taipeimarc said...

good post michael. Thanks for sharing your knowledge once again.

ps. think positive

hermite said...

Ma a "less evil" politician than his KMT colleagues? And with his stealing of the municipal money people still believe in him? Sigh.... People have been so kind to that this guy is really spoiled. Just think of his dealing with party assets, seriously, that's a decisive blow to Ma's pretentious "clean" image. This was not much noticed because it's not even a story for pan-blue media, and the younger generation knows little about the social cost of those assets. The way KMT dealt with their assets under Ma, shows what kind of person he is, and with the pan-blue media it's even becoming so difficult to make the party asset an issue. As always, Ma is never at fault for anything, even for his stealing. With that face many are still prepared to believe him.

I thought the slush fund incident sufficed to start tearing up Ma's mask. But see how powerful that mask is, still!

hermite said...

Ma a "less evil" politician than his KMT colleagues? And with his stealing of the municipal money people still believe in him? Sigh.... People have been too kind and this guy gets spoiled. Just think of his dealing with party assets, seriously, that's a decisive blow to Ma's pretentious "clean" image. This was not much noticed because it's not even a story for pan-blue media, and the younger generation knows little about the social cost of those assets. The way KMT dealt with their assets under Ma, shows what kind of person he is, and with the pan-blue media it's even becoming so difficult to make the party asset an issue. As always, Ma is never at fault for anything, even for his stealing. With that face many are still prepared to believe him.

I thought the slush fund incident sufficed to start tearing up Ma's mask. But see how powerful that mask is, still!

Anonymous said...

Sadly in Taiwan, doing well during your office period doesn't win the election. Chen had over 70% approval rate when he was running Taipei city, yet still lost to Ma--who is more handsome and runs a lot! I have many friends who live in Taipei complain to me that Ma doesn't seem to do all that much compare to Chen, in fact he does very little that made any difference to them.

-CSU Student

Anonymous said...

hermite raised a very good question I would like to point out before I head to bed (3 AM at California). I also feel Ma gets away too easily than Chen. When Chen was in office and the flooding happened in Taipei, I remember he got scream at on news, newspaper and magazine constantly for like a month. When Ma was in office and the whole MRT system flooded, Ma made some public announcement and the blame just died down like magic. In my opinion, that's totally double standard.

-CSU Student

Anonymous said...

Sun Bin, I can't believe you are repeating the whole crap ideological line about how "we're all Chinese, it's just that some came earlier than others". Do you know who in Taiwan loves to say "don't divide between wai-sheng and ben-sheng", "don't divide us by blue and green"? Any guesses Sun Bin?

The people that yell the loudest about neutrality and that there are no ethnic differences are the ones that 1) never bothered to learn Taiwanese, despite living here for 50 years the fact that it's about as hard as a Spanish speaker learning Italian 2) that have a very specific and essentialist idea about ethnic/cultural/national identity that they want to impose on others. Wai-sheng, a.k.a. Mainlanders, a.k.a., let's say it, people that identity more strongly with China or some imaginary idea of China and its history than they do with the country in which they grew up.

Sun Bin, I have no idea why, but you are talking out of your ass. You are kidding me when you complain about ethnic divisions. Who are the most loyal, one party voters in Taiwan? Last time I checked, around 50% of ben-sheng are voting KMT these days. What about your home-boy tongbao Chinese in Taipei?

I saw Ma on television the other day crying like a baby because some 2-28 victim's descendant gave him a bottle of liquor that belonged to Sun Yat-sen. His words following the story to the KMT audience--"Do you see how deep of a connection we have with Taiwan?" WHAT THE FUCK?! Seriously what the hell is he talking about? Are you a party of Taiwan or are you not? Does the Republican Party hold conventions and say "see, we really are pretty American"?

Ma is a Chinese nationalist through and through and that's what makes him so detestable to such a large segment of the population. Sure, they may exaggerate how stupid he is sometimes and they take unnecessary pleasure in how ridiculous it is for him to be caught in a scandal similar to Chen Shui-bian--but it's quite reasonable when you take into account his Chinese shovenism.

Sun Bin said...

(MT said) He should not have stupidly transferred money into his own accounts.

the more stupid is to donate them. whether he took the money or not donating them makes no difference, but simply adds more suspicion to what he had done with the money.

If Ma resigns now, he leaves the KMT chairmanship too.

he has the choise of resinging only the mayor, or even if resigning the KMT chairmanship, run for it again right after. (and hence run for 2008 presidency)
i.e. provided he is not indicted so that he is still eligible.

On the other hand, once out of office, Ma can't protect himself. And I know for a fact that more will come out.

Are you referring to Chen Shui-Bian instead? Because Chen can order an investigation into Ma even if Ma stays in office. But Chen himself, since at the highest, can influence the investifation much more if he stays in. i.e. staying in office to cover up only works if you are the prez, not the mayor.

Ckai said...

Politics is such a waste of time.... it's just like religion, choose one, or choose none, just don't push your bullshit views on other people.

The fateful receipts said...

Guys, take it easy. Let's enjoy some rather splendid performance by Ma's pet.

http://blog.yam.com/nt100/0731a117.swf

Kai Xie said...

In this sense I see more similarities between KMT and DEMs, what a tragedy.