Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Yu Shyi-kun yesterday stated that the "myth" of the political invincibility of opposition Kuomintang Chairman Ma Ying-jeou "has been shattered," and predicted that "several" DPP candidates could defeat the former Taipei City mayor in the upcoming presidential election.
Speaking to reporters during an informal "tea party" held at the Taipei International Artist Village, Yu stated that during his eight years as Taipei City mayor from late 1996 to yesterday, Ma had scored "zero" in mayoral achievements, but gained "100 percent" grades in "extracurricular activities" such as media relations.
The DPP chairman released a satiric "report card" of Ma's eight years as Taipei City mayor, which gave the KMT chairman zeros in urban construction, concern for the land, river conservation, team leadership and environmental policy and "100" grades in "the art of lying," "evading responsibility," media relations, performing shows and "jogging and swimming."
The DPP chairman especially criticized the KMT chairman for "deceiving society" by failing to fulfill promises to properly handle the problem of the KMT's massive holdings of "ill-gotten" party assets and repeated commitments to support the procurement of advanced defensive weapon systems for Taiwan's national defense as well as for "contradictory" statements regarding the former mayor's use of special executive allowances.
Yu also related that public opinion surveys conducted by the DPP indicated that Ma's approval ratings had plunged considerably during the past year.
The DPP chairman stated that in poll conducted at the end of March, Ma had a satisfaction rating of 75 percent against 15 percent dissatisfied, but that his approval rating had fallen to 55 percent in June, 46 percent in July and to 38 percent in November, while the KMT chairman's dissatisfaction rating had risen to 35 percent in June, 45 percent in July and 52 percent at the end of November.
"In terms of opinion poll rating, both (Chiayi County Commissioner) Chen Ming-wen (陳明文) and (Kaohsiung County Commissioner) Yang Chiu-hsing (楊秋興) can defeat Ma Ying-jeou," the DPP chairman stated.
Yu acknowledged that the DPP had faced a series of severe challenges during the past year, including the first, unsuccessful, legislative recall vote against President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), the demand by "pro-green" scholars for the president's resignation on July 15, the launch of a two-month long "Depose Chen" campaign by former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) on September 15, the November 3 indictment of first lady Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍) and three presidential aides in relation to charges of misusing presidential state affairs funds and, finally, the December 9 mayoral elections in Taipei City and Kaohsiung City.
Nevertheless, Yu stated that the DPP had recorded positive achievements in several fields, in addition to upsetting most predictions by scoring a split in the mayoral polls thanks to the victory of newly inaugurated DPP Kaohsiung City Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊).
Yu said the DPP had "stabilized native political power" by "upholding Taiwan identity, the principle that Taiwan's future must be freely decided by the Taiwan people and defending Taiwan's status quo of independence and sovereignty."
Moreover, Yu said the DPP had improved its party organization by abolishing factions, dealing with the chronic problem of "proxy members" and promoting "joint decision-making between the party and government."
The DPP chairman also said the governing party had continued to "strive for a just society" through promoting "sunshine laws" and setting up a "clean politics commission" and by promoting a national citizen referendum on a proposed law to deal with the issue of "ill-gotten" KMT party assets.
Asked about the timing for the DPP's nomination, Yu related that his initial conception was to hold a registration for candidates in March or April, a process that would be followed by consultation and, if a single candidate could not be negotiated, hold the first stage of a primary with a vote by party members in May followed by public opinion polls in June and the finalization of a presidential candidate by a party congress in July.
According to party regulations, the vote by party members will receive a 30 percent weight in the final score, whereas the results of public opinion polls will compromise 70 percent of the final score.
However, Yu stressed that this initial schedule needed to be discussed and approved by the Central Executive Committee.
Asked about the most important qualifications for the DPP presidential candidate, Yu stated that "the only fundamental requirements for the DPP president is to lead in the party member primary vote and the public opinion surveys as only the candidate who wins the combination of these two components can win the nomination."
Yu declined to comment further, saying that if he said he was not a candidate, "people will wonder whom Yu Shyi-kun supported," but did affirm that he believed in gender equality in political participation.
Yu emphasized that "all I am concerned with now is doing a good job in fulfilling the responsibilities of the party chairman."
In addition, the DPP chairman acknowledged that the governing party had plans to reduce the number of staff at the DPP headquarters, but said that the move was linked to both severe fiscal pressures and the needs of "party affairs reform."
The DPP chairman commented that "if I was intent on paving the road to run for president, I would not consider reducing staff as such a move is certain to offend people."
DPP Secretary-General Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) told The Taiwan News that the party would reduce its headquarters staff by about 20 percent in the coming year to both ease financial pressures and to adapt the party's organization to face current challenges.
"Some departments may be expended instead of reduced or cut," related Lin.