Newsweek and Time both had fairly good articles on the recent Taipei mayoral elections, Time doing the better job. The Newsweek article notes:

If the election presages a KMT loss in 2008, the repercussions will be felt far beyond Taiwan’s shores. Business leaders, both Taiwanese and foreign, have had high hopes for KMT’s much-hyped chairman Ma Ying-jeou. Ma has vowed to expand cross-strait economic links to revive the island’s stagnant economy. A Ma victory in 2008 would also come as a relief for Beijing, which would like nothing better than to see the pro-independence party driven from power just ahead of the summer Olympics. And Washington, after more than six years of trying to restrain Chen’s nationalism, would welcome the more moderate Ma, who promises to keep all quiet in the Taiwan Strait. Saturday’s election is a “major defeat for Ma,” said George Tsai, a professor of international relations at Taipei’s National Chengchi University. “This result shows that if the KMT wants to win the next elections, they have to side with or respond to Taiwan identity—otherwise they have no chance.”

I have no idea why anyone thinks the pro-unification, pro-China, anti-Japan Ma Ying-jeou is a “moderate” since he presides over a party that has repeatedly stiffed both local voters and Taiwan’s ally, the US, is busily deconstructing rational governance on the island, and embraces a radical political position that is not only a minority position on the island, but advocates dissolution of the current status quo. The idea that the US has to “restrain” Chen is a pro-KMT staple. Sadly, Mad Chen the Crazed Independence Nut, the bogeyman of the international press, continues to haunt their portrayals of the island. And of course, the article takes the slanted position that it is the DPP that is stopping “reconciliation” with China — as if there was no such thing as Chinese intransigence, and no missiles pointed at Taiwan. Can we have some balance please?

Still, though there is much to disagree with, this is a much better reading of the election than the one in the International Herald Tribune the other day. I love way that suddenly the Pit of Hell has opened in front of the international media: media darling Ma Ying-jeou may be vulnerable in 2008. No shit, really? You guys are only a couple of years behind the Taiwan political blogosphere in discovering this. But then this Newsweek reporter was the one that was totally controlled by Ma in an interview in Dec of 2005. At least he recognizes the implicit media position on Ma, describing him as “much-hyped.” Good work, that.

Meanwhile Time also has a creditable article on the elections. And yes, it cites Emile Sheng (why?) but it does correctly identify him as the spokesman for the campaign to depose the President:

Supporters of Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) are celebrating a narrow win in Saturday’s mayoral election in the southern port city of Kaohsiung this week. But the greatest exultation over the result may be in the capital, Taipei. The Kaohsiung race had been viewed as a key indicator of whether the corruption scandals involving President Chen Shui-bian and his family had seriously damaged the strength of his party. The DPP’s narrow victory indicates that the President, whom many opponents were expecting to step down just a month ago, still has some clout left. “I think that Chen passed a very critical political test,” says Emile Sheng, a political science professor at Soochow University and a spokesman for the campaign to oust the president. “The fact that the DPP won this election, it probably means Chen passed the political crisis.”

So many in the punditocracy are seeing the election as a referendum on Chen. Several other people were also tested — including Ma Ying-jeou. The Time article correctly notes that Ma got nailed by the special funds scandal, but I haven’t seen anything in the international press that really describes the beating he has taken in the last few months — the election loss in Kaohsiung, the slush fund scandal, the attacks on him by the Shih campaign, and the steady campaign from party insiders to curb his power and influence in the party.

(hat tip to Jerome)