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By Jenny W. Hsu Font Size:  | Print | Tag: Facebook Twitter Plurk Funp
Focus Taiwan / Election results might slow cross-strait developments: pundits

Taipei, Nov. 28 (CNA) The Nov. 27 election outcome gave President Ma Ying-jeou a reason to be thankful, but beneath the glow of victory could be a warning call to slow down his China-friendly policy, said scholars at a forum Sunday.

Ma's ruling Kuomintang (KMT) snatched three out of the five city mayor posts up for grabs. Although the seat shares indicate that the KMT-led pan-blue camp has the upper hand in Taiwan's political landscape, the total vote count tells a slightly different story.

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) secured 400,000 more ballots in terms of overall vote-share than the KMT. Many pundits, and even KMT politicians, are viewing the results as a red flag for the party's China stance, because this is the second election after the 2009 local government race that puts the DPP's popularity ahead of that of the KMT.

The nearly even-handed ballot shares from this election, said Leou Chia-feng, director of the research department of the Taiwan Thinktank, means that Ma will have an arduous battle against the DPP when he seeks re-election in 2012.

"Although Ma will maintain his open policy toward China, neither Ma nor the Beijing government can ignore the DPP's power. Some cautious tones will be added to Ma's China policy. Actually, even before the election, Ma said the current speed is adequate and that he does not want to change anything, " Leou said, predicting that no surprise action such as a formal political dialogue will happen in the next two years.

Tsai Chia-hung, an associate research fellow at National Chengchi University's Election Study Center, attributed the cross-Taiwan Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) forged in June as a major reason why the KMT was able to retain its seats.

But while the economy post-ECFA has improved, he said, Ma is feeling the pressure that his China policy might be moving too fast because of his party's less-than-ideal performance in two consecutive elections.

"The KMT learned something from this election. It will be moderate on cross-strait relations in terms of politics but might push more on economic integration in the future," he said.

Ma, however, said earlier that same day that his administration will not change its China policy or the pace of its implementation.

At the same time, Tsai added, China will probably offer some sweeteners to buttress Ma's China policy.

Lai I-chung, director of the Taiwan Thinktank's Foreign Policy Studies agreed, saying that Ma will most likely take advantage of the election results to buy time, telling Beijing not to rush him on launching political dialogue in the near future but to give him more economic goodies to really win the hearts of the public.

In Hong Kong, several newspaper editorials dubbed the KMT triumph a "catastrophic victory" and urged the party to thoroughly examine the campaign and its overall performance.

The Beijing-based Taiwan Affairs Office of China's State Council, meanwhile, issued a terse statement on the election results, touting the mutual benefits of the cross-strait rapprochement in the past two years and promising that China will "continue to work with Taiwan to expand and deepen cross-strait exchanges and steadily promote cross-strait development."

The statement was interpreted by some as China giving assurance to Ma that he is heading in a direction pleasing to Beijing and that China is standing by to provide any necessary aid to boost the KMT's clout, said Shih Cheng-feng, a National Dong Hwa University professor.

"From the results of this election, China is probably casting doubt on Ma's ability to control Taiwan's political scene, which will drive
China to offer more incentives to cement his chances of staying in power," he said.



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