KMT yet to show de­ter­mi­na­tion for in­ter­nal re­form

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

Even op­ti­mists who re­gard the Kuom­intang’s (KMT) spec­tac­u­lar de­feat in the 2014 lo­cal elec­tions as a one-time snub by its dis­ap­pointed sup­port­ers rec­og­nize the party’s need to change.

To meet that ex­pec­ta­tion, Eric Chu pro­posed a se­ries of re­forms when he ran for the KMT chair­man­ship to re­place Pres­i­dent Ma Ying-jeou, who re­signed as the party chair­man. Yet as it gears up for the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, the cen­te­nar­ian party has shown ev­ery sign of its old self and not much of a trace of a re­formed soul.

The lack of true re­form spirit is ev­i­dent even in Chu’s pro­pos­als, of which the most eye-catch­ing re­form is not even di­rected at the party it­self. Chu’s idea of mov­ing to­ward a par­lia­men­tary po­lit­i­cal sys­tem is seen at best as a veiled crit­i­cism of the pres­i­dent and at worst as a plot to un­der­mine the in­flu­ence of pos­si­ble Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party (DPP) pres­i­den­cies in the fu­ture. In his next big­gest re­form, Chu restruc­tured the Na­tional Pol­icy Foun­da­tion to “sys­tem­ize” the party’s think tank. The New Taipei mayor, who went on to win un­chal­lenged in his party lead­er­ship bid, also promised to bring more young schol­ars into the think tank.

The party failed in last year’s elec­tion not only be­cause of Ma’s un­pop­u­lar­ity — more im­por­tantly, it was the re­sult of an awak­en­ing of younger vot­ers des­per­ate at a time of ex­or­bi­tant home prices and stag­nant wages. To young vot­ers, the party is mostly dis­missed as an in­firm or­ga­ni­za­tion trapped by its au­thor­i­tar­ian past, its dan­ger­ously close ties to main­land China and its ob­ses­sion with power strug­gles over ev­ery­thing. To change th­ese vot­ers’ minds, the party needs to do much more than re­or­ga­niz­ing a think thank and tak­ing a swipe at Tai­wan’s po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.

Yet the public is now greeted with the familiar KMT rit­ual as the party’s pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls and their cronies begin clam­or­ing for their can­di­dacy. Once again the stern vows by the party fa­vorite not to join the race is greeted with uni­ver­sal dis­be­lief (Ma fa­mously vowed “over a hun­dred times” not to run for Taipei mayor). The “sedan chair car­ri­ers” of Eric Chu have been call­ing for the party leader to break his prom­ise and run for the KMT in the up­com­ing elec­tion. Ac­cord­ing to lo­cal me­dia, law­mak­ers sup­port­ing Chu are even urg­ing Leg­is­la­tor Hung Hsiu-chu ( ) to drop her bid in or­der to “main­tain party unity.”

Like­wise, sup­port­ers of Leg­isla­tive Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng ( ), who has yet to an­nounce his in­ten­tion but has been re­garded as a can­di­date, are also call­ing for the party to ne­go­ti­ate its way out of a pri­mary so as not to “hurt the party’s har­mony.” The speaker re­port­edly called to in­quire about the pro­ce­dures of pres­i­den­tial can­di­dacy ap­pli­ca­tion and is now in the mid­dle of a Ja­pan tour, a typ­i­cal visit for a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date.

The all-too-familiar sight of party strongmen vy­ing for po­si­tions un­der the ta­ble does not bode well for the self­pro­claimed re­form-minded KMT. In­stead of wast­ing its time in court pol­i­tics, the party should re­al­ize the ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis it is in. The brouhaha over a Chu ver­sus Wang can­di­dacy and “would he wouldn’t he” spec­u­la­tions dis­tract the party.

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