The Revolution has yet to Succeed, Ma Ying-jeou must Continue his Struggle
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 19, 2009
The 18th Kuomintang Party Congress ended a few days ago. Ma Ying-jeou was re-elected party chairman. He reaffirmed the KMT's commitment to political reform, clean government, and hard work. Ma was elected party chairman for the first time four years ago. Since then Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou has become the head of state. Both times he issued solemn declarations regarding the direction of the nation, using almost the same language. This is not surprising. After all, as Sun Yat-sen once said, "The revolution has yet to succeed, comrades must continue their struggle." Ma Ying-jeou has twice been elected party chairman. He must carry out his promised reforms. He must also carry out a revolution inside the party, enabling the administration to govern more effectively and ensure a second term in 2012.
Four years ago, the Kuomintang had been in the opposition for five years. The once divided KMT and People First Party joined forces. Lien Chan and James Soong waged a hard fought election campaign. But as a result of the 3/19 Shooting Incident, they failed to unseat the long-discredited Chen Shui-bian. Demands for a recount by protesters camped on Ketegelan Boulevard came to naught. Ever since Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou proposed that the party chairman be directly elected, he has been the standard bearer for Blue Camp political rejuvention. In August 2005, Ma Ying-jeou was elected party chairman. The first thing he did was to announce that he would tie up the controversial issue of party assets before 2008. That check has bounced. The first time Ma Ying-jeou assumed the party chairmanship, during the Central Standing Committee session in February 2007, he made it clear that the party must become an election machine. Party assets must not be used on election campaigns. All elections must be financed by means of fund raising. This check has also bounced.
The first time Ma Ying-jeou assumed the party chairmanship, he failed to fulfill any major campaign promises. The reason is simple. In September 2007, Ma Ying-jeou was indicted in the Discretionary Fund case. He promptly resigned as party chairman. Wu Poh-hsiung, who had been planning to retire, held down the fort in Ma's absence. Ma Ying-jeou, who was no longer in charge of party affairs, focused on his presidential campaign. He was no longer able to oversee the divestiture of KMT party assets. He was no longer able to oversee the reform of KMT party finances. Given the prevailing mood within society and the party, no one blamed Ma Ying-jeou for this bounced check. Quite the contrary, it underscored society's feeling that justice had to be done.
Today Ma Ying-jeou is again in charge of the party. He has proudly waved the party flag on behalf of candidates for the year end elections. When Ma Ying-jeou declared his commitment to clean government and political reform, people were inspired. Political momentum accumulated. But he has now declared his intention to enforce strict party discipline. Candidates for political office are lashing out at the party leadership. They doubt Ma will hold up if they give him the cold-shoulder treatment. Ma Ying-jeou has been in charge of the affairs of state for a year and a half. He is being pulled in several directions at the same time. He has not demonstrated sufficient courage and determination. As a result, his leadership has been subjected to constant challenges. Candidates for City Mayor and County Executive offices have thrown their hats in the ring without consulting him. Even incumbents who were elected on the basis of Ma's endorsement are ignoring the party leadership, and bent on rebellion. During the party chairmanship election, the turnout in many constituencies was low. The percentage of invalid ballots was high. Quite a few former "Team Ma" legislators with reputations for integrity became Central Standing Committee members. These and other outspoken and forceful County Executives and City Mayors have gradually withdraw their candidacies. When asked why, they reply without enthusiasm, and sighed, "Let him (Ma) find out what it's like to not to have a Central Standing Committee consisting of his people!"
In the year and a half since Ma Ying-jeou became president, this group of party officials, who once stood shoulder to shoulder with him in the trenches, have met with and talked with him less than a handful of times, perhaps only twice. Even party members close to Ma are saying such things. One can imagine what people not so close to Ma are saying. They simply cannot find any way to interact with the party chairman. People everywhere are asking, "Is he (Ma) actually willing to listen to other people's advice?" Actually some people really don't care whether Chairman Ma is willing to listen to other people's advice. They care only about their status as Central Standing Committee members, whether that status will profit them personally. More importantly, the Central Standing Committee lacks career officials and local leaders who can explain what they fighting for. How can such a party leadership help the administration govern efficiently? Ma Ying-jeou wants to tranform the party into an election machine. He wants to turn it into a platform for communications and policy coordination. Based on the current structure of the Central Standing Committee, one can expect a weakening of the party's policy-making functions. Whether it will be of any help during election campaigns, is hard to say. Ma Ying-jeou will inevitably encounter trouble implementing his personal ideals.
Ma Ying-jeou sees the problem. He has called upon the KMT not to buy votes during election campaigns, not to enage in corruption while in office, and not to abuse its political power. In fact, this is a problem common to both Blue Camp and Green Camp parties. But seeing the problem and talking about the problem is not enough. Now that the president is also the party chairman, he must walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
Four years ago, Ma Ying-jeou was denied the opportunity to make good on his promises. He has now returned as party chairman. He must now accomplish his mission. Only with such an understanding can he avoid future regrets. Voters may have the wisdom, but they may lack the patience to give the KMT another chance.