Eric Chu reaps what he sows in KMT presidential candidate change fiasco
As the founding party of Asia’s oldest republic, the Kuomintang (KMT) has remained innovative despite its long history. Yesterday the party pioneered the idea of forcefully removing its own presidential candidate three months prior to Election Day. One needs to think outside the dimension of where the box is in to come up with such a creative self-governing idea.
The KMT’s Central Standing Committee passed a petition, signed by 27 committee members and approved by all, to call for an extraordinary party congress where the party will replace candidate Hung Hsiu-chu ( ) with party Chairman Eric Chu ( ). Due to Hung’s status as the KMT’s rightful candidate and her expressed wish not to quit, the party could be facing a legitimacy and potential legal crisis if Hung took her case to the court. A presidential candidate’s lawyers up against her party? How innovative!
The KMT chairman is reaping what he sows as his reluctance to either join the fray or to sort things out for Hung has led to the current fiasco. Hung has been consistent in viewing her campaign as a means to bring the party back to its core (which for her means mainly deep blue) values. Meanwhile, KMT lawmakers in constituencies outside the party’s strongholds in Northern Taiwan are also consistent in warning that a deep-blue candidate such as Hung would spell disaster for their campaigns. Nevertheless, Chu and other party heavyweights threw their half-hearted support behind her, mainly because she was the only candidate willing to be in the primary. The party leaders intended to save themselves the trouble of campaigning in a race they know they are going to lose. In their bestcase scenario, Hung would be the foil in KMT’s defeat in 2016 while they would lead the party to fight back in future elections.
What Chu did not expect was the extent of Hung’s unpopularity among potential KMT voters in Central and Southern Taiwan and the pressure KMT legislative candidates put on him to replace Hung.
Hung’s defiant stance is only half of the reason for her unpopularity. Instead of giving Hung the resources and guidance she needs to expand her support base and run an effective campaign, Chu and other party leaders have kept their distance since the day she was nominated. The party might be focusing its firepower on the relatively winnable legislative elections. Party heavyweights might also find it hard for them to help build Hung’s strength and see her becoming their potential rival in the future.
Chu’s decision to remove Hung after the candidate passed all the primary polls and “anti-brick” clause is an extremely and uglily cynical one. It shows the party’s utter disregard of principles and rules, even those of its own. It is far from certain that replacing an unwanted candidate in such an unsavory way would bring anything good for the party. The chairman’s only hope is that KMT supporters are as cynical as the party is.