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Saturday, December 23, 2006

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See Wang Run


The struggle for the soul of the KMT was on display yesterday and today as Taiwan News reports on KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's rival Wang Jin-pyng's rumor-mongering his way into a presidential candidacy:

Dismissing the issue of who might want to make a bid for representing Kuomintang to run for the presidency as not worth speculating, Wang, however, said that the person who might want to run for the presidency "might not be the one the media imagine," and even if it is, the person "would not say what is in his or her mind at the moment."

A Wang candidacy would be a very interesting historical moment for the KMT. I've commented before (KMT Cult: Theology, Charisma, Discipleship, KMT: Theology, Identity, Crisis, and KMT: the Great Rift Folly) on the splits in the KMT and its identity problems, papered over for the last twenty-five years by the ability of the Machine to generate money for its candidates. Wang is a Taiwanese and is the scion of party insiders who dislike Ma intensely. However, as a Taiwanese, Wang will never be supported by the Deep Blue mainlander base, which remembers Lee Teng-hui's betrayal with hatred. A Wang candidacy might well force the KMT to decide whether it is the repository of a pro-China mainlander colonial identity, or an actual political party embracing a multitude of social and ethnic interests. Additionally, Wang is someone welcomed by many -- he is close to James Soong, Ma's rival and Chairman of the PFP, has the support of party elites, and would probably also be more welcome than Ma to the majority of Taiwanese voters and to the DPP. In short, picking Wang to head the ticket would be supremely rational, so don't expect the KMT to do it.

The gaffe in the next sentence is quite appropriate:

As for his next possible move, Wang said he never told his friends that he wouldn't want to stay at the Legislature. He is busy taking care of the businesses in the Legislature, and it is not appropriate for him to think about whether he should team up with Ma to run for the presidency in 2008, Wang said.

Yep, Wang is certainly taking care of businesses...

A Ma-Wang ticket might do very well, but bear in mind that there has been a steady current of calls for Lien Chan to step up to the plate again. Ma has taken a beating from the receipts scandals and the Shih Ming-teh protests, and is now looking vulnerable. The international media, which duly followed the local media in anointing him the next President, hasn't really caught up to the changed situation yet. The Taipei Times observed yesterday:

Virtually every article that mentions the 2008 poll slips in something about the supposed inevitability that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) will be Taiwan's next leader.

But this simple-minded assuredness that Ma's smile will win the day exposes a blissful naivete of the nature of Taiwanese politics and ignorance about what poll results from every election in the past six years have indicated.

Ma may have succeeded in trouncing his KMT rival in the chairmanship election last year and may have performed well in the Taipei mayoral elections. But none of this is indicative of how he will perform nationally.

A close examination of election results at every level since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came to power shows that, on a national level, support for the major parties is almost evenly split. The most recent election reinforced this data.


I've never thought Ma could beat a good DPP candidate -- national level elections favor the DPP, after all. Ma's no shoo-in -- but he will be formidable. Recall that in the Kaohsiung mayoral election the KMT got out 17,000 more votes than in 2002. The KMT base will come out for Ma. Who will the DPP base come out for? In a country where people vote their identities in national elections, that may be the most crucial question of all.

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