Kuom­intang needs steady lead­er­ship for 2016 elec­tion

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

The Kuom­intang (KMT) con­firmed Sun­day that Deputy Leg­isla­tive Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu ( ), with an ap­proval rat­ing of 46 per­cent, has been suc­cess­ful in the pres­i­den­tial pri­mary polls and will there­fore be nom­i­nated by the party to run in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Many KMT mem­bers and sup­port­ers have al­ready ex­pressed their back­ing of Hung, and the KMT is sched­uled to con­vene a meet­ing on July 19 to for­mally se­lect her as the party’s can­di­date.

So a con­test be­tween two women, Hung and Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party (DPP) hope­ful Tsai Ing-wen ( ), ap­pears set, since the KMT is not nom­i­nat­ing any­one else. But is this a healthy devel­op­ment for the party?

With none of the KMT heavy­weights show­ing a will­ing­ness to run, Hung first vol­un­teered her­self as a can­di­date as a way to spur the party’s strong­est con­tenders to come for­ward.

How­ever, KMT Chair­man Eric Chu ( ), Leg­isla­tive Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng ( ) and Vice Pres­i­dent Wu Den-yih ( ), the most in­flu­en­tial fig­ures in the party, have not in­di­cated clear in­ten­tions to take on the chal­lenge.

The pri­mary rea­son is that none of them feels con­fi­dent about de­feat­ing Tsai, whose party now con­trols more than half of the na­tion’s lo­cal gov­ern­ments, while the KMT holds only six out of 23.

This, how­ever, is not rea­son enough for them to turn away from the race. The lead­ers of a po­lit­i­cal party are obliged to take the reigns in ma­jor elec­tions. This has been the case for all po­lit­i­cal par­ties in Tai­wan, and also around the world.

Does it re­ally make sense that a party not push its strong­est con­tenders to the front line, but in­stead ush­ers in some­one with less popular sup­port and po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal?

We must ad­mit that Hung has many great qual­i­ties. Hav­ing earned the “Lit­tle Red Pep­per” nick­name for her sharp lan­guage, she is a strong woman who has demon­strated ef­fi­ciency and un­wa­ver­ing re­solve in the Leg­isla­tive Yuan for more than two decades. Her will­ing­ness to take the stand in the 2016 elec­tion is tes­ti­mony to her courage.

While the KMT claims that Hung’s nom­i­na­tion fol­lows the guide­lines of party chap­ters, ev­ery­one familiar with Tai­wan pol­i­tics knows that Hung was never con­sid­ered the KMT’s first, sec­ond, or even third in line when it comes to the pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion.

Given the odds against them, per­haps it makes sense for KMT heavy­weights Chu and Wang to stay away from the race and re­turn years later when they have a bet­ter chance.

How­ever, this be­hav­ior is sim­i­lar to a gen­eral aban­don­ing com­mand be­fore battle be­cause he thinks it can’t be won. No mat­ter the odds, gen­er­als are not sup­posed to dodge their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

The com­ing elec­tion can be per­ceived as a battle too, ex­cept it will be car­ried out via votes. The loom­ing con­flict is un­avoid­able, and Chu and Wang should take charge. Are they set­ting up a fe­male of­fi­cer who will be “sac­ri­ficed” be­fore the over­whelm­ing en­emy?

There are ru­mors that some of Hung’s votes gained in the pri­mary polls — car­ried out over the week­end — ac­tu­ally came from DPP sup­port­ers, who hope that a sec­ond-tier con­tender faces off against Tsai.

The KMT ought to prove its met­tle. Founded in 1894, the KMT has played a piv­otal role in the devel­op­ment of Tai­wan. The coun­try needs a strong and ca­pa­ble KMT to en­sure checks and bal­ances in the two-party sys­tem.

No one can be cer­tain about the fu­ture. The 2016 elec­tion could still be a tight race given Wang and Chu’s popular sup­port and the KMT’s broad pan-blue base. So th­ese lead­ers should come for­ward. If the KMT is to lose, it should at least do so with grace and courage.

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