TAIPEI - Taiwan's deeply-unpopular President Ma Ying-jeou is expected to step down as chairman of his ruling Kuomintang on Dec 3 to take responsibility for the party's rout by the opposition in Saturday's local elections, Taiwan media reported on Sunday.
"Ma Ying-jeou will not cling on to power; he will definitely shoulder the responsibility (of the defeat)," KMT spokesman Chen Yi-hsin told the semi-official Central News Agency (CNA) on Sunday. He added that Mr Ma would make a "major announcement" at the meeting of the party's central standing committee on Wednesday (Dec 3).
News of Ma's impending resignation as KMT chief was also reported by the mass-circulation United Daily News.
The development came as Hau Lung-pin, the incumbent mayor of Taipei, emerged as the latest casualty of the fiasco. Hau has resigned his post as one of KMT's vice-chairmen, Taipei municipal government spokesman Chang Chi-chiang said on Sunday according to CNA.
KMT lost in five out of six municipalities on Saturday, losing even its long-time stronghold Taipei and the strategic central city of Taichung. Overall, the ruling party won only six out of 22 municipalities and counties, while the opposition Democratic Progressive Party scored huge gains to bag 13 seats. The remaining three went to independents.
Premier Jiang Yi-huah resigned shortly after results were announced on Saturday, saying that the outcome showed his administration had not won the approval of the people. The Cabinet is expectedly to be completely reshuffled, with Vice-Premier Mao Chi-kuo expected to take the place of his departed boss, UDN reported.
Ma, in accepting defeat as KMT chairman on Saturday night, said he "had heard the people's message", but did not indicate that he would be stepping down as the party chief.
The 64-year-old has led KMT since 2009. He has two more years to go in his second four-year term as President, during which he presided over rapidly-warming ties with China but has also failed to lift Taiwan's economy out of a years-long malaise nor boost stagnant wages.
His approval ratings remain below 20 per cent, falling at one point to below 10 per cent.
If Ma quits as KMT chief, his deputy Wu Den-yih will serve as acting chairman according to the party's rules. An election among party delegates will then be held within three months to pick the new chairman.