KMT yet to show determination for internal reform
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.