This headline was inspired by a headline in the pro-Royalist Bangkok Post: “Anti-Government Protests Turn Bloody.” (For comparison, the New York Times headline was something like, “protesters dump blood”.) Since this is a blog about Taiwanese politics, and not Thai politics (and my mother sometimes mixes them up), I’ll stop the (morbidly fascinating) Thai tangent now.
So President Ma is not necessarily doomed, but he did get a bit of bad news. The United Daily News published a poll on its front page showing that, if the election were held tomorrow, he would lose to Su 38-29, and he would tie with Cai, 33-33. Let’s not pretend this is any kind of prediction about what will actually happen exactly two years from now. (If this were an election year, election day would be tomorrow. By the way, today is the sixth anniversary of 3-19, the assassination attempt against Chen Shuibian, or, if you prefer, the faked assassination staged by Chen.) A TVBS poll published today found nearly the same amount of dissatisfaction with Ma, but instead of asking how voters intend to vote in the next election, they asked how they would vote in the 2008 election if they could do it over today. Ma beat Hsieh by 41-31 in that item.
The significance of this poll is that provides more dramatic evidence of how far President Ma has fallen in his two years. Just over 50% of people who said they voted for Ma in 2008 say they will vote for him again; over 20% expressed support for Su. Ma satisfaction ratings have fallen to a new low of 27%, while 53% are dissatisfied. (The TVBS poll released today had these numbers at 27% and 51%, respectively.) Among blue identifiers, 36% are dissatisfied. Moreover, they are dissatisfied for a whole host of reasons, such as China policy, economic performance, failure to implement reform, failure to carry out campaign promises, rising health care premiums, and so on. There is no easy fix when there are so many different problems.
Yesterday at the KMT central standing committee meeting, Chairman Ma expressed his determination to carry out real reform, even if it cost him votes and popularity. (He was referring primarily to health care, and secondarily to black-gold politics, bureaucratic reform, ECFA, and so forth.) One wonders if Ma will follow Chen’s path. After accomplishing very little with a moderate approach to China in the first two years of office, Chen’s administration took a sharp turn toward national identity issues in the second two years. Ma might likewise opt for a radically different policy agenda in the next two years.
The other significant thing about the UDN poll is its impact on the DPP side. Su is still the most popular candidate, but he is not the only viable presidential candidate. Cai is in the same league.