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Ma Ying-jeou should prepare to step aside, foster new leadership
Publication Date : 31-01-2013
According to a poll conducted by the Want Want China Times Public Opinion Survey Centre last week, almost one out of every two eligible voters does not approve of President Ma Ying-jeou continuing to double as chairman of the Kuomintang. Altogether 49.3 per cent of the 832 respondents in the Jan. 23 survey said they do not think it's good for Ma to remain party chairman after his current turn is over in October. Only a 24.1-per cent minority approved of his running for re-election, while the remaining 26.6 per cent expressed no opinion.
Asked to rate Ma's performance as Kuomintang chairman, a 58-per-cent majority considered it unsatisfactory, with a 20.1-per-cent minority satisfied and the remaining 21.9 per cent unable to rate. They were also asked whether Ma's re-election as party chairman would positively help his government. A mere 20.1 per cent said “yes”, while another 11 per cent answered it would “negatively help” and a 48.4-per-cent plurality considered it “to be of no help whatsoever.” The remaining 20.3 per cent said they “don't know”.
Polling isn't a science, and can at best show how the polled think when they are polled. But it often points to a general trend. So, despite Ma's popularity ratings sitting at an all-time low of 13 per cent, close to one in every four people think he can run for re-election. Of course, Kuomintang Legislator Tsai Cheng-yuan is questioning the legality of his re-election bid. As part of opposing Ma running for re-election after already serving two terms, Tsai cited the Civil Association Act and the Kuomintang charter as well as a Taiwan High Court ruling against Chunan's Mayor Kang Shih-ju's election to a third term. The Kuomintang insists that Ma isn't running for a third term, however.
President Ma's record-low approval ratings indicate that people think he isn't doing his job well. Close to six out of 10 people believe he isn't doing his job of Kuomintang chairman well, either. Moreover, an almost equal number of people — a combined 59.7 per cent of the polled said his re-election to the position of party chairman would be of “no help” or “negative help” to his government - deem it better for him not to run for what the Kuomintang claims is a second term. It's time for President Ma, who has to bow out in 2016, to think of retiring as Kuomintang chairman.
Apparently, President Ma isn't performing as he should. Only on last Friday, he demanded that police arrest anyone considered driving while intoxicated and refer him for prosecution. The drunken motorist should be taken into preventive custody for 24 hours at most, the president said, adding that he will, if anybody complains against it as a violation of human rights, appear before the constitutional court to defend it himself. That, of course, isn't part of his job as head of state. No wonder close to 60 per cent of the respondents in the Want Want China Times poll rated his performance as Kuomintang chairman as “unsatisfactory”.
Everybody has to retire. And it's most important for a leader to step down at the right time. Chiang Kai-shek missed that time. Had he retired as tsungtsai or president of the Kuomintang at the end of World War II, he would have been remembered in history as the saviour of China.
Now that Ma's qualification for running for re-election has been challenged and a majority of people have questioned his leadership, it behooves him to reconsider his decision to serve another term as Kuomintang chairman. The ruling party's powerful central standing committee has unanimously endorsed his candidacy for re-election, simply because no would-be contenders want to become the chairman in December just to see the party lose big in what is known as the “Seven-in-One” election of 2014. A nationwide local election of seven classes of public officeholders will be held on the same day in November or December next year, and the party chairman will have to resign to take responsibility for the certain rout.
In other words, Ma's next term as Kuomintang chairman will be short-lived. There is little reason why he has to run for an office he can keep for a single year. The time has come for him to groom someone to take his place in the party. Ma shouldn't miss the right time to quit as chairman of the unruly ruling party.