Eric Chu's First Mile vs. Tsai Ing-wen's Final Mile
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
January 21, 2015
Executive Summary: Eric Chu did not start his first day as KMT chairman with much fanfare.
Instead he quietly announced some new generation ideas and approaches.
Chu has been mocked as "the weakest party chairman ever." Yet his first
mile as party chairman went off without a hitch. Can he resolve the
differences between Ma Ying-jeou and Wang Jin-pyng? Today's Central
Standing Committee meeting will provide the answer to that question.
Full Text Below:
Eric Chu did not start his first day as KMT chairman with much fanfare. Instead he quietly announced some new generation ideas and approaches. Chu has been mocked as "the weakest party chairman ever." Yet his first mile as party chairman went off without a hitch. Can he resolve the differences between Ma Ying-jeou and Wang Jin-pyng? Today's Central Standing Committee meeting will provide the answer to that question.
On his very first day, Chu announced several noteworthy personnel appointments and policies. One. He appointed Lai Shyh-bao, Huang Chao-hsun, and Lu Hsiu-yen to party posts. This should enable the party to act as a buffer between the Cabinet and the Legislature. Two. Out of seven deputy chairmen, he retained only two: Hau Lung-ping and Huang Ming-hui. He chose not to automatically assign former cabinet members to party posts. Three. Chu canceled Ma Ying-jeou's "Chungshan Conference". Party decision-making will now revert to the Central Standing Committee. Four. Party cadres were reorganized. Li Si-chuan, the Secretary-General of the Executive Yuan, will serve as Party Secretary-General. He will draw upon his qualifications and his relationship as a confidant.
First, Chu eliminated pro forma appointments. For example, he reduced the number of Deputy Chairman seats and discontinued the Chungshan Conference. The party's Central Standing Committee will now play a more substantial role in decision-making. Secondly, he increased the Party Central Committee's role, enabling it to coordinate between the executive and the legislature. Legislators will now serve as deputy secretary-generals for the party. Cabinet decisions have long been hampered by ruling party legislators. This is a structural problem that requires a remedy. Thirdly, this "weakest party chairman ever" has found a lever by which to apply pressure. He can use it to coordinate the cabinet with the legislature. These upper level structural reforms will soon be complete. The party machine lacks fighting ability. Its mindset is overly conservative. Chu will have his work cut out for him. He must recruit more talent for the Party Central Committee.
Only then can be begin anew.
Do these changes mean that Chu wants the party to lead the government? That inference may be premature. The Kuomintang may be in power, yet it has been blocked every which way it turns. It cannot get anything done. Most importantly, Chu must unify the party from top to bottom, and not just talk about who will be leading whom. In short, without President Ma, the Kuomintang would not be the ruling party at the central government level today. Wang Jin-pying would not be Legislative Speaker. He would be trampled underfoot in the legislature. On the other hand, KMT ineffectiveness while in power cost it the support of the people. That is why it went down in defeat. That is why it has a new party chairman today. The KMT faces challenges. How can it maximize benefits to the people? How can it regain lost public support? Those are the questions it should be asking. Not quibbling over who will be boss, or who must listen to whose commands.
Over the past two years, observers have been making prognostications about the 2016 presidential election. Many of them assumed that the election would be a showdown between Tsai and Chu. Who knew that the nine in one election results would shatter their expectations? Tsai Ing-wen need only complete the final mile. Eric Chu, on the other hand, is fettered, and is only beginning his first mile. The race between the two reminds one of the tortoise and hare. Tsai is well ahead in the game. That is why Chu announced that he will not run for president in 2016.
Will Chu run or not? Either way, the KMT cannot forfeit the race. President Ma said that if the KMT fails to retain the presidency in 2016, then his eight years in office was a failure, and his legacy will be called into question. Ma Ying-jeou is in the last year of his term. His prime concern should be the rescue and revival of his party. He must have the courage to change. He must let the new chairman show what he can do. Together they must restore the party's past glory.
Will Eric Chu be a good party chairman? He and Ma Ying-jeou have a good relationship. President Ma apparently let Eric Chu make his own appointments. He did not interfere. Such tolerance called for moderation on Chu's part, to ensure a gentlemanly relationship. Every Monday when the presidential palace calls a senior party and government meeting, Chu does his best to attend. This shows his respect for Ma. It also helps maintain smooth communications between the party and the administration. The KMT's defeat was prompted mainly by its hermetic decision-making process. If everyone opens their hearts for the sake of the nation, the wisdom of the people will far exceed the wisdom of a handful of insiders. Why assume that Ma and Chu will form two party central committees?
Eric Chu presided over his first Central Standing Committee meeting today. Nearly 30 members petitioned for the revocation of Wang Jin-pyng's party membership. How Chu deals with this will reveal his leadership style. A majority of the Standing Committee would like to withdraw the motion. Chu could easily go with the flow. That would help the KMT get past this incident. But most importantly, as he treads lightly through this crisis, how will he explain himself? That will reveal whether he has leadership.
Chu has taken his first step towards the Presidency. He neither announced sweeping measures, nor adopted alarming positions. He acted swiftly and said little. Tsai Ing-wen is already beginning her final mile. Chu's first mile seemed effortless. But the road ahead of him is a long one.
2015-01-21 02:02:01 聯合報 社論