Taiwan’s president announced Tuesday that he will step down as chairman of the ruling party, which suffered heavy losses in local elections last week.
Ma Ying-jeou will remain in office, but the fallout from the election-day drubbing underscores the troubles for the Kuomintang after the party pushed Taiwan toward significantly closer ties with mainland China.
“As chairman of the party, I want to apologize to all our supporters. I let the founding pioneers down and disappointed every one of you. I must deeply reflect on myself and the past mistakes,” Ma said at a news conference Tuesday, bowing to the audience.
Ma is expected to officially resign as the party leader on Wednesday. But he will remain president until the term — his second and final one — ends in 2016.
Saturday’s election handed the Kuomintang one of its most humiliating defeat since it was chased out of the mainland and assumed power in Taiwan in 1949. The party, known as the KMT, lost nine of the 15 cities and counties it used to hold and won only six out of 22 seats for city and county heads. The opposition party DPP took 13 of these seats.
Shortly afterward, Taiwanese Premier Jiang Yi-huah and 80 cabinet members resigned en masse in acknowledgment of the public’s disapproval of the administration.
Some analysts say Ma’s pro-China policies may have driven away many voters.
China regards Taiwan as a rebellious province that eventually must be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary — a threat backed up by at least 1,600 missiles that remain aimed at the island, according to military analysts. Taiwan insists on the rights it has maintained as a self-governed entity since 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek’s forces fled to the island after their defeat by Mao Zedong’s Communist Party.