Monday, April 09, 2007

KMT: the Past into the Future

The election for the new Chairman of the KMT ended in victory for Wu Po-hsiung, the former vice chair. Wu is now believed to be Ma Ying-jeou's man, prompting Ma's main rival, Speaker of the Legislature and longtime party insider Wang Jin-pyng to threaten hell and damnation:

In the wake of the KMT chairmanship by-election, Wang, in a statement, not only congratulated newly-elected KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung on his victory, but warned that any proposal that would allow the KMT to nominate a convicted KMT member in the 2008 presidential race will split the party into rival fractions.

The threat to split the party has been latent since the ascension of Ma, who has cultivated the so-called "Ma troop" since his rise to the Chairmanship:

Ma has faced continuous speculation that his relationships with former chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), as well as People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) are problematic. His dependence on the opinions of the so-called "Ma troop," which refers to the chairman's top aides and followers, including Taipei Deputy Mayor King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) and Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆), have sparked resentment among some party members.

"This is making it hard for other people's voices to be heard," KMT Legislator Shyu Jong-shyoung (徐中雄) said, questioning Ma's shift in decision-making power from the party's Central Standing Committee to his top aides.

Lin Huo-wang (林火旺), a National Taiwan University professor, also warned that the existence of the "Ma troop" would hurt the chairman and the party.

"The KMT chairman should be the chairman of all party members, instead of a certain group of people," he said.

Both Wang Yeh-li and Sheng suggested that Ma could be more humble as the opposition leader in seeking party harmony and pan-blue unity.

Wang is the leader of the "southern legislators" -- the Taiwanese KMT. The threat to split the KMT is essentially a threat to take the Taiwanese KMT and go. Last year I thought perhaps the party insiders would wrest the Party back from Ma, but it looks like Ma has managed to ensure that more of his people will be made legislators. A longtime local reporter I talked to yesterday interpreted Wu's support for Ma as an act of revenge against the Party elites. In the late 1980s Wu had looked as though he was slated for Provincial Governor or even higher posts, but then President Lee Teng-hui passed him over in favor of other politicians. In the end, when the KMT revoked Lee's membership, Wu sided with the mainlander ideologues against him. This mainlander-Hakka alliance is an important one in the ethnic coalition the KMT has built to oppose control of the island by the Hoklos.

Ordinarily Wang's threats would lack weight, but with the legislature shrinking, many legislators are going to be out of a job -- and with Ma's man running the show, those jobless legislators are going to have a disproportion of Wang supporters. The Taiwanese KMTers have been disgruntled for a year now. The threat to split the KMT is not an idle one.

Wang is close to PFP Chairman James Soong, whom the local media is reporting is due to return to Taiwan momentarily.

The chairman of the People's First Party James Soong (宋楚瑜) is expected to Taiwan tomorrow after a four-month respite in the United States, PFP lawmaker Hwang Yih-jiau said yesterday, saying the purpose of Soong's return is to boost cooperation between the PFP and the Kuomintang.

Wang and Ma have a preliminary agreement that one will be the other's running mate regardless of who is ultimately chosen for the Presidential candidacy. Chairman Wu is reported to be arranging another meeting between Lien, Wang, and Ma, before Chairman-for-Life Lien Chen goes to China to sell out Taiwan for an economic forum later this month.

How does Soong play here? In 2000 Soong left the KMT to run independently in the Presidential election, barely losing to Chen Shui-bian, 39% to 36%. The following year he founded a breakaway Blue party, the People First Party (PFP). Originally the PFP was supposed to be a home for disaffected ethnic Taiwanese (Hoklo) and Hakka politicians who wanted places in the legislature. The KMT was facing a predicted shrinkage in its share of the legislature. According to John Tkacik, one reason President Lee started the TSU was to poach ethnic Taiwanese legislative candidates from the PFP, and hamstring its legislative clout.

The parallel to the current stage is pretty clear. Again, the legislature is shrinking and the ethnic Taiwanese (Hoklo) legislators from the KMT are looking at thin times. Some have actually threatened to go over to the DPP just to compete for seats. The last time around, high-handed leadership in the KMT resulted in an independent Presidential bid and the eventual formation of a rival political party. This time?

"When the gruel gets thin, the knives get sharper."


Anonymous said...

Ma is the insider of insiders. He is daddy's boy, son of a waisheng general and used to translate for that bastard Chiang Ching-kuo. Even though he couldn't pass the Taiwanese bar, the Chinese KMT thought it fit to send him to NYU on Taiwan's bill.

Most English readers won't know this. The Chinese KMT's current voting rules allow only dues paying members to vote. Do you know what this means!?!??! Only card-carrying, absolutely fanatic DIE hard blues (i.e. retired Chinese soldiers) can vote. Nobody pays party dues anywhere in the world, the US included. No wonder Wang wants to bolt. The rules are goddamn unfair.

Anonymous said...

Based on the Asian time article:

and by this update

I thought the KMT chairman election between Ma and Wong was an open one, and Ma still won.

Michael Turton said...

It was an open election, but the electorate was rigged, as the first comment notes. Since dues paying members are mostly Deep Blues.... Also, there were allegations on both sides of cheating.