No Backtracking on the Road to Revolution
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 3, 2010
The KMT has suffered yet another legislative by-election defeat. KMT Secretary-General King Pu-tsung told this paper that the party's hard-line stance would not change. It would selectively "reform whatever local factions needed to be reformed." Many local political bosses have arrived at a watershed in their relationship with the KMT. This is true whether King Pu-tsung's hardline reforms represent the will of party chairman Ma Ying-jeou or not. For the KMT, such reforms are ten years overdue. They are something the KMT must do. The KMT's rot began with its roots. Because it is the ruling power, not a day goes by in which it is not hobbled or even threatened by local factional leaders.
Local factions are deeply rooted. They existed during the Two Chiangs Era. Back then local factions, both "black" and "gold" participated in politics only at the local level, no higher than the Provincial Assembly. It was impossible for them to gain entry to the central government. Local factional bosses were unable to gain entry to the legislature, never mind become political appointees. During the Lee Teng-hui era however, the political environment changed. Political participation was liberalized. Local political factions could no longer be artificially prevented from participating in central government elections. Lee Teng-hui rallied local factions against old school Kuomintang factions. This is how black gold factions were able to gain entry to the legislature. The Taiwan Provincial Government was "frozen/eliminated." The Taiwan Provincial Assembly was terminated. Locally elected representatives inundated the legislature. Professionalism at the central government level was seriously degraded. All the political tricks familiar to local factions, from political patronage to vote-buying became problems KMT party leaders had to confront and even accomodate.
The public welcomed the Republic of China's first Taiwanese president. Lee Teng-hui successfully integrated local factions within the party. Unfortunately he stopped at nothing in the process. As a result Lee Teng-hui's democratization was tainted by black gold politics. Eventually the KMT paid the price. It found itself in the political wilderness for eight years. Not a day passed without talk of reform. Not a day passed without talk of opposition to corruption and black gold. The KMT suffered for eight years. It regained political power on the basis of Ma Ying-jeou's reformist image. But less than two years later, all its bad habits have returned.
Local party bosses in charge of local party affairs prior to the KMT's loss of power, now open ask aspiring candidates questions such as, "How deep are your pockets? How much money can you lay on the line?" This money is needed for campaign publicity, and to provide political patronage for the candidates. It is even needed for party affairs. The KMT has regained political power. As its secretary general, King Pu-tsung must coordinate local party affairs. He never imagined coming face to face with candidates demanding to know who will reimburse them the 15 million NTD they already spent. These candidates show no embarrassment. They do not blush. They do not stammer. They ask "How can we fight a war on an empty stomach?"
King Pu-tsung has been KMT Secretary-General only briefly. The cause of his astonishment is the root of the Kuomintang's most terrifying problem. It is difficult to eradicate. It makes people wonder. What was the Kuomintang doing while in the opposition for eight years? Are its reforms for real or not? The KMT has been back in power two years. But what has it done? Is it having trouble overcoming political inertia? Did it fail to cultivate new talent? Will these matters be dealt with repeatedly with the most expedient and cavalier methods? Will the KMT cave in by accepting nomination standards demanded by local party factions? No matter what the answer, there is only one conclusion. It is also the reason King Pu-tsung has experienced two consecutive defeats. The KMT's long-standing problems have reached the stage where they must be resolved, or else.
The KMT's long-term problem is how to strengthen a party in which party loyalty is not that strong. King Pu-tsung has little to do with the party's outdated practices. To demand that he assume responsiblilty for them may strike outsiders as unfair. But this can't be helped. History has left King Pu-tsung with this cross to bear. He must assume responsibility for the success or failure of the party's reforms. He believes reform is essential. He has vowed not to compromise. He will have to pay the price.
Political reforms for any political party that aspires to govern long term, must enable it to succeed, and not to fail. Whether one is looking at the short-term political impact, or the long-term historical legacy, the inescapable reality is that "history is written by the victors." The KMT's victory or defeat is not the public's concern. The question that concerns the public is whether KMT reforms will be beneficial or harmful to the long-term development of the nation. The KMT must ask itself why its reforms have led to failure rather than success. This is an issue the Democratic Progressive Party must deal with as well. Has Taiwan's political culture deteriorated to the point of hopelessness? Bluntly speaking, no politician or political professional should compromise with a decadent political culture. Because today's compromises may be bitter fruit they must swallow tomorrow.
The KMT is no longer an authoritarian political party. It regards itself as a democratic political party dedicated to winning elections. As it transforms itself, the KMT must retain its innocence and maintain its discipline. If King Pu-tsung is serious, then we support the KMT's unyeilding commitment to reform. We hope the KMT will remember its fighting spirit during its eight years in the opposition. We hope it will reaffirm its belief that reform is the basis of success, and that success is the result of reform.
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