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Recall Bid the Latest of Chairman Ma's Errors
Paul Lin
7/23/2006

Last week's Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) anti-President Chen Shui-bian rallies across the nation were the last before all the wind went out of Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's sails. Unable to come up with something new to boost the recall motion against Chen, the rallies were merely a repeat of June 21. Since people have grown tired of the platitudes,
Ma's return to a moderate path was necessary lest his support continue to fall.

At first, Ma did not wish to act before a case had been established, but then People First Party (PFP) James Soong tricked him into pushing for the recall motion. Ma didn't shrink from talking tough and fabricating accusations of "assassination attempts" against him supposedly made on a
call-in program on an underground radio station to whip up support for the cause.

His behavior, however, backfired as it prompted pan-green supporters to unite and launch a counterattack, forcing him to step back. At the last KMT-organized rally in Taipei prior to the recall vote, Soong was prevented from taking the stage, causing a fall-out between the two chairmen. If Ma wants a shot at the presidency in 2008, he and his aides should learn from the recall brouhaha and learn the importance of staying firm instead of turning with the wind.

Unwilling to go down like this, Ma is now trying to divide the pan-green camp and win over their supporters by using the slogan, "defend localization by terminating corruption."

Taiwan is a democratic society where political conflict takes place in the open. By coining this slogan, Ma has modeled himself instead on the highly oppressive ways of China, where one must pretend to support the Chinese
Communist Party (CCP) to be able to attack it. Likewise, Ma feigns pro-localization to attack the pro-localization agenda.

If Ma were really passionate about localization, he would be firm in his defense of Taiwan's sovereignty and the "one country on each side of the strait" formula. He comes off as a hypocrite, however, when claiming to defend localization after first having stated that his goal is to pursue
"eventual unification." Or could it really be that he is going to call the state resulting from a unification between Taiwan and China the "Republic of Taiwan?"

In the run-up to the 2004 presidential election the KMT's image suffered a crisis. As a result, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng proposed including Taiwanese independence as an option for the KMT. In the run-up to last year's KMT chairmanship election, Ma then berated Wang for his suggestion, setting Wang up for a crushing defeat. How can Ma claim to have a pro-localization stance?

In the face of a Chinese invasion, Ma is opposed to passing the arms procurement bill in the legislature, nor did he allow KMT legislators to deliberate on the flood-control bill despite southern Taiwan being inundated. How can he claim to defend localization? Ma has sold plots of local land which were part of the KMT's stolen assets, rather than returning them to the public.

Ending corruption is no easy task. Exposing corruption is a good thing, but claiming that Chen's ouster will terminate corruption is naive. If Ma wants to combat corruption, he should start by surrendering the KMT's stolen assets and explaining his relationship with former Taitung County commissioner Wu Chun-li. He should clarify comments that Wu's detention on suspicion of corruption should not affect Wu's wife -- who won the seat Wu vacated -- as well as the rapid increase in his own fortune. If he does, he might win the 2008 presidential election without spending party assets on campaigning. But if he continues to rely on street violence for help, he might meet a nasty political end.

Paul Lin is a Taipei-based political commentator.

Translated by Daniel Cheng

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