Ma calls KMT's trouncing a lesson learned

TAIPEI - President Ma Ying-jeou on Saturday spoke about his party's unprecedented battering in local elections a week earlier, promising to work harder after the public has clearly expressed dissatisfaction with his government's reforms.

Ma, who stepped down from the chairmanship of the Kuomintang (KMT) after the historic failure, told a national prayer breakfast that voters have used their ballots to send a clear message. The KMT won top positions in only six of 22 cities and counties around Taiwan, compared with the 15 it held before last Saturday's election.

In the last presidential election nearly three years ago, 6.89 million voters "were willing to give the responsibility of leading the nation to us, but we have not sufficiently listened to the voices of the people, which left people without enough trust in us," he said.

"As the nation's leader, it is my unshirkable responsibility to accept this most severe of lashings, to accept this painful lesson, and to work even harder for the country," he said.

He said the political landscape of Taiwan has changed in part because of participation by young people, which has "surprised and delighted the public" because many had believed the young were uninterested in public affairs.

"It turns out they still harbour passion and hope for the nation... and I too am full of even more hope for the future of our country," he said.

He said that 2014 has been a year of challenges for his administration, including massive student-led protests, the plane crash in Penghu, gas explosions in Kaohsiung, and food safety issues, "but I believe there is a way out from every difficulty."

Speaking at the Christian-themed event, he cited the biblical story of Exodus and how Moses led the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land, but God made him pass leadership onto Joshua before they reached their destination.

Just like Moses built the basis for Israelites' way out of Egypt but could not take them all the way, long-term accomplishments are made up of the work of many people in many stages, he said.

For the KMT, the disastrous election results are indeed a major setback, but Ma said he as the president will instead focus on the theme of Saturday's prayer breakfast: "peace, reconciliation, and moving Taiwan forward."