Party Transformation Has Yet to Succeed, the President Must Continue His Struggle
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 27, 2009
The KMT Central Standing Committee has finally made its decision. Every Central Standing Committee Member must run for re-election. The curtain has risen on a "quiet intraparty coup."
Why this quiet intraparty coup? The Central Standing Committee is the highest authority within the KMT. Its status is comparable to the Central Political Bureau in Soviet-style political parties. If every Politburo Member was replaced overnight, that would constitute an intraparty coup. Now that the Central Standing Committee has ordered its members to submit their joint resignation, that too constitutes an intraparty coup.
The Central Standing Committee is elected by party representatives. It makes no difference why they were elected. The Central Standing Committee unquestionably represents the will of the party. But some members of the Central Standing Committee enaged in vote-buying. A few rotten apples spoiled the entire barrel. The decision to dump the entire barrel and start over from scratch means that the will of certain individuals or the Central Standing Committee has nullified a decision reached through a democratic election. This also constitutes an intraparty coup.
This intraparty coup was instigated by Party Chairman Ma Ying-jeou. It was promoted by Ma Ying-jeou. Whatever its motives, the current party leadership refused to recognize the legitimacy of the former Central Standing Committee, and proceeded to overthrow it. This also constitutes an intraparty coup seldom seen in political history.
The intraparty coup is already a partial success. Central Standing Committee by-elections have already been announced. Candidates involved in vote-buying will not be permitted to participate. Can we look forward to a high caliber Central Standing Committee that meets the expectations of Ma Ying-jeou? We can, but it won't be easy.
Why not? Suppose no vote-buying had occurred, and the 32 former Central Standing Committee Members served out their one year terms? Would this Central Standing Committee befit an outstanding political party, adept at governance? Would it be able to help the ruling adminstration govern the nation? Would it be a locomotive for a "party of action?" Probably not.
Why not? Because even after those guilty of vote-buying are removed, the 32 former Central Standing Committee Members still bore scant resemblance to a supreme political authority. They included neither central government level political appointees and local political leaders, nor experienced professionals with reputations for integrity. They lacked leaders with charisma, and leaders with experience. They were second and even third string players. How could they possibly fulfill the role of supreme decision-makers within the halls of power? What virtues did they embody, if any? Did they have either the professionalism or the aptitude to help the administration govern the nation, let alone lead a party of action in its time of need? Such a Central Standing Committee was nothing more than an empty shell. It could not have contributed anything to the KMT's larger mission. It failed to meet with Ma Ying-jeou's expectations. Never mind whether Ma Ying-jeou was "centralizating power in the name of reform." The intraparty coup has begun. A galloping horse is hard to capture. Ma Ying-jeou urgently needs to do two things.
First, he must decide what sort of Central Standing Committee he wants. Central government political appointees resigned en masse from the previous Central Standing Committee. Ma Camp candidates withdrew their candidacies, en masse. Some outsiders concluded that Ma wanted to diminish the power of the party, and "virtualize" the role of the Central Standing Committee. If Ma Ying-jeou was actually thinking in such terms, and was attempting to transform the KMT into a "soft power" political party, the public would have been delighted. If Ma Ying-jeou is actually thinking in such terms, he should stop repeating the slogan, "A better party for a better government." He should avoid any discrepancy between words and deeds, to prevent the KMT from being branded a party whose substance fails to match its form.
Secondly, if Ma is not attempting to diminish the power of the Central Standing Committee, if he genuinely wants "a better party for a better government," he must strengthen the Central Standing Committee. This will help underscore his intentions. The only way to strengthen the Central Standing Committee is to recruit personnel of the highest caliber. In order to overthrow an inadequate Central Standing Committee, Ma Ying-jeou was able to persuade Central Standing Committee Members to resign, en masse. In order to establish a superior Central Standing Committee, Ma should also be able to persuade better qualified Central Standing Committee candidates to throw their hats in the ring. Otherwise the same candidates will run in the wake of the intraparty coup. The same second and third stringers will be elected. The intraparty coup will be a charade, making the KMT a laughing stock.
Over a century ago Qing dynasty scholar Tan Sitong declared, "China has never known political reformers willing to shed their own blood. Let me be the first." Tan wanted to affirm his commitment to political reform. Ma Ying-jeou should display the same courage. Ma should declare, "The Kuomintang has never known party reformers willing to shed their own blood. Let me be the first." Without such courage, the intraparty coup may well end in failure, and become the target of ridicule.
2009.10.27 04:35 am