Ruth: So this is the ship they say is unsinkable.Twenty-five years I've been watching Taiwan politics. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed them so much.
Cal Hockley: It is unsinkable. God himself could not sink this ship.
I went off to Guguan on my bike yesterday planning to ignore the internet. I just wanted to come home to find everything resolved. Instead, it became more of a mess.
Not that I'm disappointed or anything.
The day opened with Apple Daily publishing an interview with President Ma Ying-jeou, who more or less ripped Eric Chu, the KMT Chairman, for not running.
"As party chairman, (Eric Chu) has the responsibility to find the most suitable candidate," Ma told Apple Daily, a tabloid-style newspaper. "If that fails, he himself has decent qualities and should not dodge the responsibility that is his to shoulder."(Did you catch that? FocusTaiwan, the government's own news source, referred to Apple Daily as a "tabloid-style newspaper.")
Despite pressure from all sides, Chu again denied he was going to run for President.
"The decision not to run has subjected me to more pressure and criticism than if I had decided to run," said Chu, who is widely considered as his party's best chance of beating Tsai Ing-wen,(蔡英文), chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), in next year's presidential elections. Chu said the decision not to compete does not mean he is " biding his time or fears defeat," but rather that he is honoring his promise of serving out his four-year term as mayor of New Taipei City, as promised during the local government election campaign last year.Several sharp people I know have been saying since Chu became Chairman of the KMT months ago that he wouldn't run for President. I have never believed it, assuming that even if he really didn't run, all this kabuki theater would get him on board, eventually. But pressure from all sides has failed. In fact, there are calls already within the KMT for Chu to resign since he failed to provide a meaningful candidate (!).
As a KMT chairman, he said, he has been working to revive the party's spirits since its crushing defeat in the local elections last November.
He has also been working for true unity of the party, Chu said at a press conference held at the KMT's headquarters after the closing time for the collection of registration forms for the party's presidential primary.
Noting that some people have been saying that he is refusing to run for president because he is afraid to lose, Chu said if that were the case he would not have run for the chairmanship of the party.
Serving as KMT chairman is "a difficult and underappreciated job," said Chu, 53.
He said that if the KMT wins the 2016 election, the new president will serve concurrently as party chairman, and if the KMT loses, "I certainly will have to step down to take responsibility" for the loss.
He said, however, that if his decision not to compete in the presidential election will cause even more disarray and disunity in the party, he will step down as chairman.
After Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) on Friday apologized to supporters while saying he would not be joining the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential primary, some KMT lawmakers reacted angrily, blaming KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), with some calling for Chu’s resignation as chairman if the party ends up with a less-than-satisfactory candidate.Ah, what a joy it is for me to be comprehensively wrong about Chu. I always thought he would come out. What a joy it is as well to see this acted out in public by KMT officialdom. My wife has been ROFL watching me walking around the house, grinning from ear to ear.
Solidarity has Chu's speech in English here.
This means that the KMT really has no candidate, with the election eight months from now. That leaves:
On Saturday, Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), former Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良), and Huang Po-shou (黃柏夀), the chief secretary of Dayuan Township in Taoyuan County, were the only KMT hopefuls who collected registration forms for the party's presidential primary.It's irrelevant who they pick from this bunch: Tsai Ing-wen will steamroller them. I will thoroughly enjoy watching former Vice President of JP Morgan and NSC director Douglas Paal come to Taiwan at election time and do his dog and pony show for... Huang Po-shou, a former township secretary with great ambition. Recall that Chu has already said that the KMT won't be spending money on the Presidential campaign -- whoever runs has to fund it on their own. A friend of mine on FB summed it up nicely:
Imagine if in 2008, knowing they'd lose because of Bush, none of the top Republicans ran for president, and the party was ultimately left with only these 3 primary candidates: former health secretary Michael O. Leavitt, far-right legislator Allen West, and the secretary of the GOP's Kokomo, Indiana chapter. This is exactly what's happening to Taiwan's ruling party, the Kuomintang (KMT), right now.Chu is probably saving money for the legislative elections which will take place the same day. But if the KMT goes with one of these inferior candidates, then the legislative election will take a huge hit.
When they lose, Chu will have to step down.
Speculation about Chu is heading in several directions. Chu doesn't want to run because he wants to save himself for 2020 (he'll be 57 then). Chu doesn't want to run because he is gun-shy and out of his depth. Chu went to China and saw the light -- Xi, no politician either and apparently unable to identify where his interests lay, treated him like a mentally defective farmhand who wanted to marry his daughter, instead of a prodigal son come home -- and discovered he is Taiwanese, not Chinese. Chu doesn't want to preside over a presidency married to Ma's cripplingly stupid China policies. Chu doesn't want to run because the KMT will lose both the election and New Taipei City in the by-election, and then Chu will have to resign from the Chairmanship, meaning that he will be left with nothing but memories. Chu doesn't want to run because he really is committed to the people of New Taipei City. Chu doesn't want to run because he never wanted to be Chairman either.
Whatever the reason, Chu doesn't want to run. Even if they somehow draft him, he'll be seen as a reluctant candidate, wounded by repeated denials. Recall that the KMT has another month before it is supposed to announce a candidate.
And there's Hau, running the KMT on a day-to-day basis while Chu does other stuff. Like Chu (a former accounting prof, which also shows how the KMT uses the universities as job programs for mainlanders, one of the ways the KMT uses all the government and quasi-government and industry organizations as job programs for mainlanders), Hau is a mainlander and former professor who had greatness thrust upon him. One has to wonder whether he will have the same reaction as Chu.
And there's Wang Jin-pyng, the Taiwanese Speaker of the Legislature who withdrew from the race on Friday after having his candidacy blocked by the Ma camp and the mainlander core. Recall that Wang is the leader of the Taiwanese KMT, or the "southern KMT", the Taiwanese faction politicians who run the KMT at the local level and which the KMT is entirely dependent on for its local presence. The mainlander core didn't want Wang because he isn't a mainlander -- not a Chinese. Nothing like ethnic chauvinism as a basis for political choices. That's a giant middle finger to the party factions and to Taiwanese who are KMTers, because at the local level Wang is something of a hero in a local-boy-makes-good way. That won't be good for party unity going into the election.
I want to put away a nice bottle of whisky for election day. Any suggestions?
UPDATE: DON'T MISS Solidarity's excellent take on Eric Chu.
UPDATE: New Bloom on the KMT and Chu
UPDATE: Frozen Garlic on the mess
- FAPA rebuts Ma interview in WSJ
- Canadian immigration officers told to pay closer attention to Chinese + non-Chinese marriages
- Shortening work week could harm businesses, say businessmen.
- Taiwan's indigenous people at the UN
- Family from India nabbed for heroin trafficking into Taiwan.
- VOA: Taiwanese weigh pros and cons of engagement with China.
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