Three Strategies for the Nomination of the KMT Presidential Candidate
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 15, 2015
Executive Summary: The KMT has announced how it will nominate its presidential candidate. But whom will the party nominate? That remains a mystery. Based on polls, whomever the KMT runs will trail Tsai Ing-wen. This is one reason for the delay. The 2016 election will be a combined presidential and legislative election. The KMT must go for broke. Otherwise it may even lose its legislative majority. For the blue camp, the situation is dire. It has no room for optimism or foolhardiness.
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The KMT has announced how it will nominate its presidential candidate. But whom will the party nominate? That remains a mystery. Based on polls, whomever the KMT runs will trail Tsai Ing-wen. This is one reason for the delay. The 2016 election will be a combined presidential and legislative election. The KMT must go for broke. Otherwise it may even lose its legislative majority. For the blue camp, the situation is dire. It has no room for optimism or foolhardiness.
Party morale is low. The only candidate who has openly declared her candidacy is Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Yuan Hung Hsiu-chu. Other potential candidates, including Eric Chu, Wang Jin-pyng, and Wu Den-yih, remain tight-lipped. A sense of crisis is brewing within the party, leading to all manner of trickery and calculation. Ruling party changes are the norm in a democracy. The KMT is currently the ruling party. Yet its defense of the regime and its continued rule are so feeble, comrades are demoralized and supporters are desolate.
Recall the past six presidential elections. KMT or pan blue candidates never lost at the starting line. Now however, the situation is critical and different from the past. To be fair, public support for the blue camp and green camp is roughly equal. In fact, the blue camp may even have an edge. As long as the blue camp nominates the right candidate, listens to the public, and works toward the same goal, an election upset is possible. The real danger is that party insiders may do each other in before the battle even begins. If that happens, all hope of victory is lost.
To win this election, the KMT's best strategy is to regroup pan blue supporters, and lure back former party members. creating an atmosphere of pan blue unity. This is especially true for the legislative elections. In several districts, pan blue cross-party integration is essential. Private sector professionals with clean images should also be added to their ranks. This will attract swing voters who prefer a third force. The blue camp should create a "dream team" that crosses traditional party lines. If it can do so, internally and externally, it can create a synergy that could lead to a whole new political scenario.
Pan blue integration is easier said than done. The how of integration is a problem. Establishing mutual trust between political parties and political groups is not easy. Most importantly, the "Big Blue" KMT must demonstrate magnanimity. Only then can it persuade the "Little Blue" People First Party and New Party to work together. This means that the KMT party leadership must be willing to see the big picture. It means someone must engage in tireless shuttle diplomacy. If politicians care only for their own sectarian interests, pan blue integration will be impossible.
If pan blue integration proves too difficult, the KMT's second best strategy would be to send in its heaviest hitter. Traditionally KMT nominations involve first allowing willing candidates to step forward, then holding party negotiations or a party primary. But if the KMT wants to nominate its heaviest hitter, the nomination process should be bottom-up. The candidate could be Eric Chu, Wang Jin-pyng, even Wu Den-yi, Hung Hsiu-chu, or Hong-Yuan Lee, as long as he or she has the right stuff. The party should conduct an island-wide or hybrid poll, allowing the public to decide who should step up to the plate. Once this process has produced a winner, the candidate should not hesitate. He or she should do battle on behalf of the KMT.
The key to this process is shattering prevailing stereotypes about the nomination process. The heavy hitter must see the party nomination as a call to duty, not just the acquisition of power. After all, the KMT government is already under siege. Anyone who makes other, purely selfish calculations, will only find himself going down with the party. Such people need to think again.
The worst strategy would be for the KMT to cling to its traditional "announce, register, negotiate, hold primary" process for presidential candidate nomination. If the KMT chooses to go down this road, it should skip the negotiation process. If two or more candidates have registered, a party primary should be held. One. This will eliminate negotiations that lead to sore losers. Two. The party primaries will help generate candidate and party political momentum.
The candidate chosen by the party primary process need not be the party's heaviest hitter. But he or she must be willing. He or she must have won public support. He or she must be the candidate with the most legitimacy. In retrospect, KMT presidential candidates have always been vetted by the party. They have either been "designated successors", or the product of negotiations. If a party primary can produce a candidate, it will establish a precedent for intraparty democracy.
If the KMT hopes to win the presidential election, the road ahead will be a long one. Meanwhile, the DPP and Tsai Ing-wen must fight for her "final mile". Campaigning is never easy. Past KMT defeats were almost always the result of internal divisions and blunders, rather than their opponent's actions. The same error, repeated, amounts to stupidity. Offer up your best candidate. Show that they know how to solve problems. Do this and the blue camp has a chance to make a comeback.