Taiwan cabinet resigns after massive polls defeat
TAIPEI, Taiwan (UPDATED) – Taiwan's cabinet resigned en masse Monday, December 1, after the ruling party suffered a massive defeat at the island's biggest ever local elections.
The Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) had their power slashed across Taiwan at the key polls Saturday, November 29, with Premier Jiang Yi-huah quitting hours after the disastrous result – seen as a key barometer ahead of the 2016 presidential race.
In the wake of Jiang's resignation, Taiwan's 81-strong cabinet formally stepped down Monday morning.
The current cabinet members will continue to serve as caretakers until a new line-up is selected by the next premier, who is likely to be chosen by embattled President Ma Ying-jeou in the coming days.
"As the cabinet is now entering into the caretaking period, I want to implore you to continue carrying out your roles until the new cabinet is formed... Hopefully the period won't last too long," Jiang said in a statement.
Although he defended the performance of his team, Jiang admitted that "voters were not happy".
Analysts said that Ma faced a difficult choice over who should be the next premier, now that the China-sceptic opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is in the ascendant.
Ma is also widely expected to step down as KMT party chairman.
The DPP took 47.5% of the votes cast across the nation in Saturday's polls, with the KMT on 40.7%.
"It is not easy. The next premier must be a person who is able to communicate and negotiate with the opposition on various national issues," Windson Chen, a senior political commentator, told Agence France-Presse.
"At the same time, he or she must be able to display strong leadership to press for economic development," he said.
Slowdown on China policy
Stagnant wages are a major source of widespread dissatisfaction with Ma's KMT, who were elected on vows to revitalize the island's slowing economy.
A string of food scandals and growing fears over Chinese influence are also stoking the voter backlash, with some analysts now anticipating the KMT government will ease off on tightening ties.
"We expect to see the government slow the pace of its China policy," Chen said.
Taiwan and China split in 1949 at the end of a civil war, but Beijing still claims the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification – by force if necessary.
Since Ma came to power on a China-friendly platform, frosty ties between Beijing and Taipei have warmed, leading to a tourist boom of Chinese visitors to Taiwan as well as expanded trade links.
But there is public anxiety at the closer relationship. A proposed services trade pact with the mainland sparked mass student-led protests and a three-week occupation of Taiwan's parliament earlier this year.
China has urged Taiwan to "push forward" with cross-Strait relations in the wake of the landslide vote.
An editorial in the state-run Global Times Monday blamed the KMT's loss on the party's "incompetence in managing Taiwan's economy and society", but said the defeat "doesn't mean the triumph of Taiwan independence forces".
"So far, the DPP has been toeing the line without challenging cross-Straits relations," it added.
The KMT lost five of Taiwan's 6 large municipalities – the most hotly contested seats – in the local polls.
There were 11,130 seats at all levels of local government up for grabs with 18 million eligible voters – turnout was 67.5%. – Rappler.com