Kuomintang Must Heed Crisis of Governance
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 7, 2011
As predicted, the KMT lost the legislative by-elections for both cities in southern Taiwan. Worse still, it lost by a wider margin than previously. The KMT has been back in power for less than three years. Yet it has already lost half a dozen major and minor by-elections in a row. In 13 legislative by-elections, it has retained only three seats. By contrast, the DPP has scored a continuous string of victories. It won one less seat than the KMT in the five cities elections. But the total number of votes it received far exceeded the KMT's. No wonder after the by-elections for the two cities in southern Taiwan, DPP Chairman Tsai Ing-wen confidently declared that the DPP would soon return to power.
Over the past two years, the KMT has failed to exploit the power of the incumbency. It has lost a string of major and minor by-elections. It has suffered so many defeats, one could simply change the names on the file folders for its election post-mortems. The KMT Central Standing Committee has dealt with its defeats in a ritualistic, pro forma manner. No one is willing to confront the KMT's problems head on. Either that, or they see the problems but can offer no solutions.
Pan Blue rule in the north, and Pan Green rule in the south, has become a long standing pattern. The KMT clings to its ostrich mentality, assuming that it need only retain power in northern and central Taiwan. The further south it goes, the more it is reluctant to campaign. During the recent fourth legislative district election in Tainan, the KMT was caught unprepared. It nominated legislator without portfolio Chen Shu-hui. Whether she won or lost, she would have remained a legislator. As a result, she lacked the motivation to campaign hard from the very start. During the Kaohsiung fourth legislative district by-election, the KMT nominated Hsu Ching-huang, the son of former DPP legislator Hsu Chi-min. One. It disregarded the fact that the Hsu family was embroiled in local controversy. Two. It disregarded the fact that Hsu Ching-huang was defeated during his previous legislative bid. Three. It disregarded public consternation over the nomination. Instead, it wallowed in feelgood sentiment. "We can win in Kaohsiung!" it told itself. Instead, it lost by a whopping 30,000 votes. Who in the KMT had the courage to suggest that such a nomination was a mistake?
The candidate might be Chen Shu-hui, or it might be Hsu Ching-huang. But the real problem is that the KMT has failed to campaign vigorously in the south. It has failed o cultivate talented candidates willing to make sacrifices. Chen Shu-hui was able to serve as a legislator without portfolio, because she was the wife of former legislator Lin Nan-sheng. Lin Nan-sheng habitually relied upon support from local factions and military dependents. His terms in office were not controversial within the party. The Chen administration ruled for eight years. Twice during that time, Lin Nan-sheng defected, voting with the DPP against the KMT. During the seventh legislative elections the party made room for Wang Yu-ting. As a result Kao Po-shi waltzed into office. In order to clear the way for the nomination of Chen Shu-hui as legislator without portfolio, Chen did not fill the position until legislator without portfolio Lee Chi-chu assumed the vice chairmanship of the FSC. Wang and Kao lost their bids for reelection. They were given political appointments. Following the five cities elections, the KMT Secretary-General refused to run for elective office, and resigned before the cabinet reshuffle.
The reality was brutal. The legislative by-elections in the two cities in southern Taiwan may have been lost before they even began. But why? The reason is simple. Legislator without portfolio Chen Shu-hui failed to campaign vigorously at the local level. After their political appointments, Wang and Kao failed to make full use of their resources. The central government was silent. The local government was invisible. How could they even hope to win? This was true in Tainan. This was true in Kaohsiung as well. By contrast, during the curent election Lin Dai-hua, the DPP candidate for the legislature, won handily, At the time, she was no different than Wang Yu-ting and Kao Shi-po. All were victims of surprise defeats during their bid for reelection. She served briefly as Youth Commission chairman prior to the change in ruling parties. She was defeated. She then made a determined but unsuccessful bid for Kaohsiung County Chief. If not for the merger between Kaohsiung City and Kaohsiung County, she would have been the DPP's nominee for Kaohsiung County Chief.
Lin Dai-hua is not yet 40. Hsu Tien-tsai is approximately 60. The age gap between the two DPP elected officials is 20 years. The generation gap is two to three generations. But when it comes to campaign ability, they differ very little. They have never stopped preparing to assume power, They are ready to do battle at any time. This unique characteristic of DPP officials, makes it far easier for them to be "air dropped" into an election than the KMT. Once they are air dropped, they make long term plans. They fight until they win.
It is rumored that King Pu-chung, who resigned as KMT Secretary-General, has been busy. He is in southern Taiwan "head hunting." But head hunting is useless unless one has the DPP's determination to fight until one wins. Also, if those recruited become members of the presidential campaign, what good will that do the KMT? In 2012, it is not enough merely to re-elect Ma Ying-jeou president. It is even more important to ensure a KMT majority in the legislature.
During the seventh legislative elections, the KMT used the Chen family corruption scandals to score a stunning victory. Ma YIng-jeou enjoyed enormous momentum. The KMT won two-thirds of the seats in the legislature. Unfortunately, the legislature failed to bring with it a new political climate. The cabinet was restructured twice. It was subjected to repeated fine-tuning. None of which elevated its political reputation. The year end legislative elections and future by elections are bound to be affected. The KMT has many incumbents. Arriving at compromises between them will not be easy. DPP legislators have considerable growth potential, Rival factions and party princes may have difficult to overcome grievances during the presidential election. But these grievances will be easy to overcome during the legislative elections.
Suppose the DPP or a DPP led coalition wins a majority in the legislature? Suppose President Ma Ying-jeou summons up the courage and makes some bold moves? What can he do if the DPP commands an overwhelming majority in the legislature? By then, the DPP may have amended the ROC Constitution. As its first experiment, it may turn it into a dual leadership system. The powers of the president would be greatly reduced. This would mark the beginning of a figurehead presidency. Tsai Ing-wen has declared that the DPP will use the legislative by-elections to return to power. Is the KMT still unaware that it is undergoing a crisis in goverance?