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[Opinion] Taiwan`s Ma Couple

Posted March. 27, 2008 08:13,   


Taiwan`s President-elect Ma Ying-jeou, who accomplished regime change after eight years, enjoys high popularity. His support rate skyrocketed to 86 percent in this week’s opinion polls. He had to stop signing his name at his house as too many supporters showed up to get his autograph on Mar. 25. His wife, Chow Mei-ching, known to lead a simple life, also contributed to her husband’s victory. She is reportedly considering to resign from her bank.

Although Taiwan’s affection for Mr. Ma and his wife seems unusual, there’s a good reason for this. In a recent survey, 40 percent of respondents said the ruling Democratic Progressive Party lost due to President Chen Shui-bian. People who were tired of his incompetence and mismanagement have been waiting for a new leader. Mr. Ma’s wife, who dresses unpretentiously and commutes by bus, was often compared to incumbent First Lady Wu Shu-chen, called “Imelda of Taiwan,” for her love of jewelry and brand name products. The fact that Taiwan now has a respectable president and first lady is making all Taiwanese excited.

Ma has been a popular politician for a long time. He beat then-mayor of Taipei, Chen Shui-bian, who hoped to be reelected. Although circumstances were unfavorable, Ma was elected, which made him an influential politician in Taiwan. When he served as justice minister, Ma took the lead in eradicating corruption and irregularities in the government and elections. The couple did their best to lead a public life. They didn’t drive their official vehicle on holidays and personally drove their small car.

However, popularity for politicians always changes in any countries. For instance, the approval rating of French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, was 70 percent at the beginning of his presidency, but his support has halved in less than a year. It is difficult to predict whether Mr. Ma’s popularity will sustain or not. Considering his attitude towards his life, I expect it to last for a long time. Taiwan`s Nationalist Party has maintained good relations with Korea since the country’s provisional government was established. We congratulate the Taiwanese people on electing a good leader, and hope that bilateral relations between our two nations will be more solid.

Editorial Writer Bhang Hyeong-nam (hnbhang@donga.com)