He has promised to stimulate Taiwan’s struggling economy by opening trade with China and letting in Chinese tourists, but now faces a global economic slowdown. He also has promised to run a clean government. But he leads a party with a long history of corruption and thuggery so ingrained that when Mr. Ma tried to investigate illegal deals while justice minister in the mid-1990s, he quickly lost his job and temporarily had to leave politics. He was an assistant professor at a local university for about a year before he came back by being elected mayor of Taipei.
Throughout his career, Mr. Ma, who has a doctorate in legal studies from Harvard, has taken legally precise positions that sometimes have been politically popular and sometimes have not.
BBC also has a profile of Ma.