Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Great Rift Folly: KMT in Crisis?

Lots of interesting news this week on the KMT and its internal issues......

I've blogged previously on the KMT and its generational and identity crises (KMT Cult: Theology, Charisma, Discipleship and KMT: Theology, Identity, Crisis). The ascendancy of Ma Ying-jeou to the chairmanship, and his enormous popularity, has served merely to mask, not ameliorate, the deep divisions in the KMT, between the generations, and also between party insiders, who supported legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng, and the factions that support Ma Ying-jeou.

The faction split in the KMT has cropped up in numerous ways in recent weeks. For example, the Taiwan News reports on Ma's offer for Wang to become the Vice Chair:

Kuomintang Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday again invited Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) to serve as his deputy, a move that is seen aimed at enhancing the KMT's internal communications on major controversial bills and issues and bridging the differences between the party's headquarters and the Legislature.

The legislative speaker, however, rejected the offer.

It is believed that Wang is unwilling to serve as the party's second-in-command under Ma. Speculations about a feud between Ma and Wang surfaced again last July after Ma defeated Wang in the KMT's chairmanship race. Yesterday was the second time that Ma tried to persuade Wang to serve as a vice chairman.

Making Wang the Vice Chair would signal at least titular, if not actual, Ma ascendancy over Wang. Hence the reluctance of Wang, who has been playing coy about a 2008 run for President -- which is certain to pit him against Ma -- to accept such an offer. The rift in the KMT is so deep that Ma eventually ended up criticizing KMT legislators for airing the party's dirty laundry in public, as pro-Wang factions attacked the Ma supporters:

The offer came after some 30 KMT legislators on Monday held an informal round-table conference, at which they urged that Ma and Wang should cooperate closely.

The participants also criticized what they referred to as an "unreasonable phenomenon" where the KMT legislative caucus is controlled by pro-Ma legislators.

They pointed out it is improper for some "bellicose" legislators to continue to block the bill on military procurement and the confirmation of Control Yuan members, and advised that KMT legislative leaders should reinforce their authority.

The comments were made in the wake of conflict among KMT lawmakers during the Legislature's rejection of Hsieh Wen-ting (謝文定) as the candidate for the post of state public prosecutor general. Ma also said after the Legislature's vote on the issue that the KMT caucus had not been informed him of the decision and that he was "surprised" at it.

David at jujuflop had been speculating on just how much control Ma has over his legislators. Perhaps this set of events provides a clue -- it is the pro-Ma legislators who are blocking the arms package, according to the pro-Wang faction. On the other hand, Wang's people could just be them blaming the Ma factions because they don't want to take the blame themselves. Both Wang and Ma have at various times made cooing noises toward the US on the arms package, but neither seems to have driven their troops to implement anything concrete. Taiwan News continues:

Addressing the apparent rift between the party and the Legislature, Ma proposed that Wang take a top position in the KMT.

"I am keen to invite Wang to serve as my deputy so that I can meet with him at least twice a week," Ma said, noting that Wang often discussed major policies and bills with Lien Chan (連戰) when Lien was chairman of the party.


Of course, Wang was Lien Chan's bagman, which is why Lien openly supported him for the Chairmanship against Ma Ying-jeou. Wang in fact was supported by KMT insiders, against Ma, who has broad support among the rank and file, especially the young.

This brings me to another point: when Chiang Kai-shek was on his way out, his son Chiang Ching-kuo brought many Taiwanese into positions of power within the KMT. Not because he was an especially open person, but because he wanted to form a power base independent of the powerful mainlander insiders who had gathered around his father. In the 1950s and 1960s generals who had challenged Chiang had also used native Taiwanese in their quest to develop an independent power base. Here is essentially the same set of tactics: the party leadership is pro-Wang, so Ma has developed a base among younger people who are essentially marginalized by the party leadership, in the same way that Chiang Ching-kuo developed a power base by co-opting Taiwanese into the KMT.

Pro-Wang legislators from southern Taiwan recently held a forum and invited Wang, but not Ma, to attend:

Growing resentment for the caucus' hawkish faction -- dubbed the "Ma troop" -- has prompted some party legislators from the south of Taiwan, led by Hsu Shu-bo (許舒博), to hold their own forum on Monday.

In response, Ma yesterday said he was "happy to see legislators have opinions on the party's affairs," and welcomed party members to share their thoughts with him directly.

"What I am afraid of most is the KMT becoming a monopoly ? I am happy to listen to all kinds of opinions, and I welcome [party members] to contact me anytime," Ma said yesterday morning before attending a meeting of the Asian Network of Major Cities 21 in his role as Taipei mayor.

According to the Chinese-language media, Hsu sent out invitations yesterday calling on his fellow legislators from southern Taiwan to "draw on their collective wisdom to find a correct direction for the party," because the KMT needs to examine itself so the party can return to the middle course and grow stronger.


By "hawkish" the paper is referring to militant pro-Blue politicians who have returned to the KMT fold after a stint in the PFP or New Party. From another article:

But other KMT lawmakers feel that Ma had been "kidnapped" by those with hardline positions on political confrontation.

"Some people who recently joined the KMT from the People First Party [PFP] and the New Party have hijacked Ma. They oppose everything for the sake of opposition," Legislator Hsu Chung-hsiung (徐中雄) said yesterday.

Hsu said he would appeal to fellow lawmakers who can mediate to form a caucus sub-group to deal with their more hardline colleagues.

Hsu said hawkish legislators are using Ma to further their own interests, which would damage the party's image.


As David at jujuflop pointed out the other day, Ma has to tread carefully to avoid offending these legislators, so that more of them will return home to the KMT. They are all potential Ma supporters -- as militant pro-Blue politicians they will never permit a Taiwanese to become head of the party or ROC President ever again, after the "betrayal" by the hated Lee Teng-hui, a native Taiwanese who rose to become Chairman and President of the KMT. It just so happens that Wang Jin-pyng, Ma's rival, is a Taiwanese. Ma may have his eye on a legislative majority, but Ma's strategy of catering to their interests may also be aimed at Wang as well.

Another indicator of the factional rift in the KMT is the party's recent decision to change the way the at-large legislators are chosen by the party. The trick is, the proposal is targeted at a bullseye parked right between Speaker Wang's eyes:

According to existing party rules, a nine-member review committee prepares a list of "recommended" legislator-at-large candidates that is then put to a vote by the 210-member Central Committee.

Only those who receive majority approval from the committee's 210 members can make the slate of at-large nominees.

The process, however, has been criticized for being undemocratic and vulnerable to under-the-table influence peddling, especially since no candidate recommended by the nine-member committee has ever been rejected.


In other words, the key point here is that the at-large posts were chosen by the KMT insiders, who are pro-Wang. Wang is in fact an at-large legislator who was selected through this process, which has led, according to the Taiwan News piece above, to suspicion that he really couldn't be elected through democratic means. It seems obvious that the at-large legislators were also favored by party insiders, and thus, are probably all pro-Wang. The new idea, proposed by a pro-Ma legislator...

According to the proposal, 1,600 representatives and some 14,000 KMT volunteers will be eligible to cast votes to decide the 34 legislator-at-large candidates and how they are ranked on the slate, Liao said.

Among the 34 at-large nominees to be named, 17 will be women, Liao said, who denied the new procedure was targeted at Speaker Wang.


Rankings are key because only the top candidates will win, according to the proportion of the vote won by the party. For example, if the KMT wins 75% of the legislative vote, 75% of its at-large candidates will be selected, or the first twenty-five or so at-large candidates. Hence the goal is to make it into the top half of the candidates, not merely to get on the list.

The thing to grasp here is that if the at-large candidacies are elected by the rank and file, the vote is likely to favor pro-Ma candidates since Ma's strength lies in his ability to make hearts throb among the party faithful. Party insiders, who support Wang, will no longer be able to determine who becomes an at-large legislator. As the Taipei Times observed:

The Chinese-language United Daily News reported yesterday that the changes were directed at Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), who secured the first nomination for a KMT at-large legislative seat.

The United Daily News is a pro-Blue paper. Ma said also was quoted as saying something very interesting:

"As party chairman, of course I would like to choose the legislator-at-large nominees myself. But since that is not democratic, we have to have a new system that allows more people to participate in the nomination," Ma said.

It is possible to read this to hear Ma saying that he wasn't allowed to pick the at-large candidates himself -- so he had to reform the choosing process so that his people would get in. But the Chairman of the Party not being allowed says volumes about how much -- or little -- real power Ma might wield in the KMT. It appears that Ma's most powerful enemies just might be those on the inside of his own party.

UPDATE: Scott argues below:

While I don't doubt that Wang is supported by insiders, the belief that Ma is a hipster bringing a cool and groovy image to the KMT is almost certainly wrong. In his bid for Chairman of the KMT, Ma was overwhelmingly supported by retired soldiers. (Who gets to choose the next KMT chairman?) In fact, without the support of retired soldiers, the vote for Ma and Wang was pretty much split. The KMT has tried ferociously to craft an image of their party as a party of the businessman and now a party of the young. The fact is that it remains a party whose ancestry is firmly planted in China. A successful bid by Wang may have been one step in the direction of dispelling this idea. But since Ma won overwhelmingly, it's clear what kind of party the KMT will remain.
For further information, Wiki has a good page outlining the ethnicity and voting issues in the Ma-Wang Chairmanship election.


6 comments:

David said...

Good stuff - I'm busy writing up my view too. Personally I think Wang and his friends are in trouble: there might be a rift - but Ma holds all the aces. I can't see anything realistically that Wang can do - do you?

Scott Sommers said...

Michael,
You state, "Wang in fact was supported by KMT insiders, against Ma, who has broad support among the rank and file, especially the young."

While I don't doubt that Wang is supported by insiders, the belief that Ma is a hipster bringing a cool and groovy image to the KMT is almost certainly wrong. In his bid for Chairman of the KMT, Ma was overwhelmingly supported by retired soldiers.
http://jujuflop.yule.org/2005/03/24/who-gets-to-choose-the-next-kmt-chairman
In fact, without the support of retired soldiers, the vote for Ma and Wang was pretty much split. The KMT has tried ferociously to craft an image of their party as a party of the businessman and now a party of the young. The fact is that it remains a party whose ancestry is firmly planted in China. A successful bid by Wang may have been one step in the direction of dispelling this idea. But since Ma won overwhelmingly, it's clear what kind of party the KMT will remain.

Michael Turton said...

Good stuff - I'm busy writing up my view too. Personally I think Wang and his friends are in trouble: there might be a rift - but Ma holds all the aces. I can't see anything realistically that Wang can do - do you?

I can't see what Wang can do to stop Ma, but I can see scenarios where Wang can, in revenge, damage Ma's chances in 2008. I mean, Wang must have tons of dirt on Ma. Since everyone already knows that Wang is not clean, it follows that scandal revelations will have a greater effect on Ma than on Wang. I forecast revenge.

Scott, I'm going to move your comments into an update at the bottom.


Michael

David said...

"I forecast revenge."
Heh - making a forecast based on everything that is petty and bitter - that seems about right. However, I'm going to go for the "petty obstructionism and whinging" option - he is Lien's protege after all :)

Michael Turton said...

And of course, there is still Soong the wild card. Will he run in 2008?

Michael

Taiwan's Other Side said...

Nice post, though it might be worth it to point out that Chen is doing his best to widen whatever rift there might be by throwing Wang job offers of his own.