Taiwan's Ma seeks relection as ruling party chief

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou on Thursday kicked off his reelection campaign for the ruling party leadership vowing to continue internal reforms following recent corruption scandals.

"We cannot stop reforming and we have to shoulder our responsiblities," Ma said in a brief speech at he registered his candidacy at the Kuomintang party (KMT) headquarters in Taipei.

"This is not only my personal duty but the sentiments of all party members," he added.

Ma was first elected KMT chairman in 2009, a year after his presidential election victory over then ruling Democratic Progressive Party on a platform of promoting ties with China and fighting corruption.

He was reelected in January 2012 for a second and final four-year presidential term.

However, Ma's approval ratings took a severe hit last year and plunged to an all-time low of 15 percent amid a bribery scandal implicating top cabinet official Lin Yi-shih, one of his key confidants.

Lin, a former KMT vice chairman, was sentenced to seven years and four months in jail in April on convictions of pocketing more than $2 million in bribes from a businessman.

Observers say Ma and the KMT suffered another heavy blow when another top aide and his personal lawyer, Lai Su-ju, was taken into custody in March on bribery charges, in the latest graft scandal to hit the island.

Lai was accused of accepting Tw$1 million ($33,500) from a businessman but claimed that it was a political donation rather than a bribe in connection with a construction project in Taipei.

Ma has rejected some criticism that he vies for the KMT leadership out of his "personal interests" rather than the party's.

"I humbly accept if (people) say I have not worked hard enough but I don't accept that some people say that I pursue personal interests," he said at a KMT meeting on Wednesday.

Taiwan has been rocked by a string of corruption cases involving top officials in recent years, including ex-president Chen Shui-bian who is currently serving a 20-year jail term on multiple graft convictions.