Four Reform Suggestions for Eric Chu and the KMT
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
January 06, 2015
Executive Summary: The KMT is in a predicament. One. In recent years, it has governed
poorly. Two. It has fallen victim to long term “greying.” These two
problems will require more than just time to address. They will also
require new thinking, new attitudes, and new operating methods. In any
case, this is hardly something that electing a new chairman can solve.
This is not the sole responsibility of a single party chairman. Eric Chu
must encourage everyone to think anew. Only then can the party reverse
Full Text Below:
Since its election defeat late last November, everyone in the KMT has been afraid to break the silence. Eric Chu is seeking the party chairmanship. That of course is a welcome move. He has suggested a number of reform proposals while on tour. Angry demands for party reform were anticipated. But surprisingly they have failed to materialize. This is puzzling. A full month has passed, yet the defeated blue camp remains eerily silent. That is not a good sign.
The KMT has suffered a serious defeat. Yet no one inside the KMT is demanding an accounting. The main reason may be that President Ma Ying-jeou resigned shortly after the elections. Everyone is waiting for a new generation leader to address the matter upon his election. But political parties are "political organisms.” The KMT has long been overly reliant on strongman leadership. This has led to the gradual failure of the party machinery, to tone-deafness regarding social currents, and unresponsiveness to shifts in public opinion. In other words, if the KMT merely follows Chu's lead instead of Ma's lead, it will remain calcified and out of touch. What is required is creative thinking and listening to the public.
The current situation suggests that the KMT should promote four basic reforms, and begin as soon as possible. It cannot afford to delay. One. It must consider the matter of talent and campaign ability. One of the main shortcomings of the KMT's political culture, is its preoccupation with bickering over internal resources, its inability to recruit outside talent, and cultivate new talent. Over the long term, this has led to inbreeding and cliquishness. Ambitious and creative talents are marginalized and the party is hollowed out. Between 2009 and today, KMT membership fell from 50,000 to 35,000. The speed of the fall surpassed all expectations. Clearly the KMT leadership has been derelict in recruiting new members.
One. A shortage of talent will of course affect the party's ability to wage campaigns. When the Ma government attempts to implement policy, party members often gang up on it. The DPP, by contrast, derives its support largely from the surrounding community or social movements. Among these, dissidents often belong to several societies. One man often plays several roles. They use different pulpits from which to speak. The blue camp, by contrast, has no countermeasures against such attacks. They are unable to win agreement from their opponents. They are unable to organize any sort of counter-force. They often have no idea how to counter an opponent's argument. We do not believe the Kuomintang lacks all talent. But the party leadership must recognize it and reward it. Unless it does so, it will not be able to change its operational methods. In which case, what difference will having 30,000 members make?
Two. Consider the matter of party assets. Despite repeated party asset reorganizations, the matter has yet to be put to rest. It has become an albatross around the KMT's neck. Eric Chu recently declared that the party must totally divest itself of improper assets. This is the proper approach. The party assets are held by only a few. Most party members never get even a whiff of them. Political candidates do not share in them. Yet the entire party is constantly vilified and humiliated over them. If the KMT continues to bear this heavy burden, it will eventually be crushed. The party must first totally divested itself of all its improper assets. The party's hiring practices and financial practices must be changed. Only this will rid the party of its "big but illegitimate" party structure. At which time, it can emulate the DPP, and require public servants to donate a certain percentage to candidates as campaign funds and underwrite any shortfalls.
Three. Consider the matter of party democratization. The KMT has a rigid seniority system. It is rife with pro forma ritual. Worse, this seriously affects the internal exchange of views. It makes it hard for subordinates to express views to superiors. Following the election, Eric Chu should reform the Central Standing Committee communication channels. He should include more diverse voices. He should make party policy match the pulse of society. The KMT "Examination Board" is formed by non-democratic means. When Wang Jin-pyng was expelled from the party, this problem reared its ugly head. The courts ruled the election invalid. Following the election, Eric Chu should convene a party assembly as soon as possible. Future Examination Board members should to be elected. Only then will their decisions not be repeatedly challenged.
Four. Consider the matter of younger party members. The KMT has abundant resources. Yet it cannot attract young people. This is because the party's manner of operation is too old fashioned. The party has suffered a major blow. Yet it still refuses to budge. Eric Chu recently addressed this matter. He vowed to "use the Internet to link members with the public." Allowing party members to make proposals directly on the Internet or communicate with other party members is of course a good first step. But it is not enough. Just look at how Tsai Ing-wen surrounded herself by the "Youth Corps" during the 2012 election. Many of them became Sunflower Student Movement members and opponents of Ma during the nine in one elections. If the KMT fails to cultivate a new generation of leaders, it will only go further astray, and never win the hearts of young people.
The KMT is in a predicament. One. In recent years, it has governed poorly. Two. It has fallen victim to long term “greying.” These two problems will require more than just time to address. They will also require new thinking, new attitudes, and new operating methods. In any case, this is hardly something that electing a new chairman can solve. This is not the sole responsibility of a single party chairman. Eric Chu must encourage everyone to think anew. Only then can the party reverse its fortunes.
2015-01-06 聯合報 社論