Five Keys to KMT Electoral Style Party Reform
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 2, 2015
Executive Summary: Eric Chu has taken over as KMT chairman. He has issued several major statements about the future of the party. Two of them are the most crucial. One. He has proposed a constitutional amendment to adopt the cabinet system for the nation. Two. He has proposed that the KMT undergo electoral style party reform. Chu said that "The chairman may be weak, but the party must be strong." This is his strategic vision. The "Cabinet System" and "electoral style party reform" are closely correlated.
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Eric Chu has taken over as KMT chairman. He has issued several major statements about the future of the party. Two of them are the most crucial. One. He has proposed a constitutional amendment to adopt the cabinet system for the nation. Two. He has proposed that the KMT undergo electoral style party reform. Chu said that "The chairman may be weak, but the party must be strong." This is his strategic vision. The "Cabinet System" and "electoral style party reform" are closely correlated.
Political science generally classifies political parties as either "electoral style" or "cadre style". In the former, political power originates in the legislature. It is the form that most democracies adopt. In the latter, political power originates in the party organization. This is known as the Leninist style. The century-old KMT has undergone repeated restructuring. Yet its organization remains firmly Leninist cadre style. Therefore if Eric Chu's vision for Kuomintang comes true, he won't merely have reformed the party, he will have transformed it.
Eric Chu has taken over as party chairman. He has since made several major decisions. He has decided to introduce a large number of elected representatives and local leaders who enjoy popular support. He has abolished the purely symbolic offices of Honorary Chairman and Vice-Chairman. He has abolished the Chung Shan Conference, which once served as a platform for party to government coordination. He has totally changed the role of think tanks. Chu clearly intends to proceed full speed with electoral style party reform, in step with cabinet system reform. Future decisions by the KMT may become collective leadership group decisions.
Political transformation, of course, is not easy. Can the KMT successfully transform itself into an elector al style party? To do so, it must master at least five keys. Key One. The party must strike a balance between being a party motivated by ideas and a party rooted in reality. In addition to electoral style parties and cadre style parties, there are also philosophically based political parties and brokered power based political parties. Most political parties in democracies belong to the latter category. But to distinguish themselves from other political parties on the ballot, political parties must still offer clear party platforms. Does the KMT wish to become an electoral style political party? If it does, then the policies it promotes must bow to political reality. Proposals have recently been made for lowering the threshold for political party subsidies. Eric Chu and Wang Jin-pyng have agreed to negotiate with the TSU using a “market price” model. In this model becomes the norm, whether the KMT is an opposition party or the ruling party will not matter. The line between it and other political parties will become increasingly blurred. The distinction between it and other political parties will become less and less significant. Take cross-Strait policy for example, the most significant distinction between the two largest political parties. Will the KMT be able to stand by its convictions? Or will it attempt to adopt the policies of other political parties? This will be one of the first challenges to confront the Kuomintang.
Key Two. Will the KMT be able to strike a balance between old and new forces and thinking? Take the recent reform of the National Think Tank, for example. There appears to be a consensus within the party for reform and the adoption of Eric Chu's policy path. But Chu faces many problems. They include what to do with the National Think Tank, how to assign authority. how to deal with local factions, how to deal with traditional political forces, and how to deal with awakened voters.
Key Three. How should the KMT handle the roles of the executive and legislative branches? Over the past seven years, the Kuomintang has been the ruling party. But the executive and legislative branches often clashed. This posed a major obstacle to Ma government administration. In the short term, a KMT undergoing electoral style party reform will not be able to cover both these sectors. Therefore the KMT party leadership must create a mechanism for coordinating major decisions.
Key Four. How will a KMT undergoing electoral style party reform reshuffle party personnel? Chu is currently implementing electoral style party reform. He is recruiting only elected officials who enjoy broad public support into the Party Central Committee. This of course is the right approach. But more importantly, he must see that party insiders to do more than hold party posts. They must also be ready to do battle by participating in elections, or serve as political appointees. In recent years Kuomintang elected officials, elected representatives, political appointees, and party workers were often members of different systems. During elections or cabinet reshuffles, they often played musical chairs. This obstructed the entry of new talent. Naturally this made attracting people with talent and ability difficult. This situation must change.
And finally, Key Five. How can the KMT avoid the problem of "players doubling as referees"? Once the party has completed electoral style party reform, those who wrote the nomination and campaigning rules may well seek to become candidates themselves. If demand exceeds supply, limited resources are likely to lead to controversy, criticism, and even infighting within the party. Preventive measures must be taken. Time is limited. The rules of the game must be laid out in advance. This is urgent.
In all fairness, the KMT has gotten to the point where it has no choice but to reform. Electoral style party reform may not be enough to get this century-old party back in running order. But all of the major political parties on Taiwan are Leninist style political parties. Transforming the KMT into a truly democratic political party is still worthwhile. If these keys can be mastered, and the right remedy prescribed, the KMT just might be able to rise from the ashes.
2015-02-02 02:48:30 聯合報 社論