Taiwan leader's popularity falls to all-time low

TAIPEI - Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou's popularity has plunged to its lowest level ever, a poll showed Thursday, amid a bribery scandal involving a top official who is his key confidant.

Ma's approval rating fell to 15.0 per cent, according to the survey of 1,303 people conducted by the cable news channel TVBS this week, after former cabinet secretary-general Lin Yi-shih admitted taking bribes from a businessman.

Ma's previous lowest approval rating was 16 per cent in August 2009 in another TVBS poll, following a typhoon that killed more than 600 people and triggered widespread criticism that his government reacted slowly.

A record high of 64 per cent said this week they have no faith in Ma's future performance while 78 per cent said his administration has poor crisis management skills, according to the latest poll.

The president also saw his popularity dive 25 percentage points from a January poll conducted by the channel less than two weeks before he was reelected for a second and final four-year term.

Observers said Lin's bribery case dealt a heavy blow to Ma, who won his second term pledging to fight corruption after his predecessor Chen Shui-bian was implicated in several graft cases.

Lin, a former vice chairman of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party, was taken into custody on Tuesday after he admitted wrongdoing in the case that also implicated his mother and his wife.

Prosecutors did not specify how much money was involved while the businessman alleged that Lin was paid Tw$63 million ($2.1 million) to help him gain a contract with a state firm two years ago.

Lin was also accused of soliciting another bribe of Tw$83 million this year from the same businessman, who refused and took the story to the media.

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