Sunday, February 11, 2007

Penning in Ma

The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction -- Blake

Yesterday the Chinese-language United Daily News, a pro-Blue paper, announced that Wang Jin-pyng, currently the legislative speaker and a heavyweight in the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), was going to run for president in 2008. I would have blogged on it, but UDN has a history of exaggeration, so I decided to wait until the more reasonable papers came out today. Sure enough, the pro-Green Taipei Times came out with a more balanced report today:

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) yesterday hinted at his interest in running for the presidency in 2008.

Wang mentioned the possibility when approached by reporters for comment on a story published by the Chinese-language United Daily News yesterday.

The report said Wang had decided to compete in the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) primary for the 2008 presidential election.

It quoted an anonymous source as saying that Wang had recently reduced the number of public events he attended because he had started preparing for his campaign.

"There are many options open to me," Wang said yesterday. "What I am thinking about is what else I can do for the nation and what do people expect from me?"

When asked by reporters whether running for the presidency was one of those choices, Wang did not dismiss the idea but stressed that it was among the possibilities, which also included staying in the legislature.

He said that grassroots supporters were showing increasing support for him running in the primary and that he had also taken their support as a factor in a decision.

Wang is a key rival of current KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou, whose public reputation has taken a beating in recent months thanks to corruption charges and atacks on him by the anti-Chen protest. As I've noted numerous times before, Wang is a scion of KMT party elites, who dislike Ma Ying-jeou. Ma, by contrast, is more popular with the rank and file, especially the Deep Blue side. Both Wang and Ma are considered contenders for the KMT nomination, along with former Chairman and two-time Presidential loser Lien Chan. It is conventionally held around the island that insiders dislike Ma since he put so many of their supporters in jail when he was justice minister during the Lee Teng-hui administration.

According to news reports, the investigation of Ma may lead to an indictment prior to Chinese New Year. I have often wondered whether the investigation of President Chen was merely the set-up for an investigation of Ma, since the prosecutor in the Chen Shui-bian investigation, Eric Chen, is close to Lee Teng-hui, who in turn was thick with the KMT party elites who dislike Ma, back when Lee was President. Lots of people around the island are operating in what one academic termed ABM (anyone but Ma) mode. That is why, despite the rallying around Ma now taking place in Deep Blue circles, Ma's Presidential candidacy may well be undermined by people in his own party.

In addition to his rivalry with party insiders, another reason questions hover around Ma is his constant appearance of weakness. Sure enough, last week Ma stopped by the Black Gold Investigation Center "to explain that he had acted within the law when he wired half of his mayoral allowance to his personal bank account." In other words, Ma went to the investigators to grovel and plead. Is Ma on his way down? The next 12 months promise to be very entertaining for those of us observing politics on the Beautiful Isle.

1 comment:

Raj said...

Although I'm not sure how good Wang would be as President, I do think he could only be an improvement over Ma. The guy is just Tony Blair without the intelligence (both without wisdom) - he will say almost anything, to the point where he would just build up hopes in China and then dash them as soon as Taiwanese complained he was going too far.

So I really do hope Ma gets sent down and Wang wins the nomination. Then maybe Taiwan will have a choice between two relatively responsible candidates (probably Wang and Su).