Thursday, September 11, 2008

Domestic Situation: KMT

Paul turned back to the Emperor, said: "When they permitted you to mount your father's throne, it was only on the assurance that you'd keep the spice flowing. You've failed them, Majesty. Do you know the consequences?

Aussie scholar Bruce Jacobs has written a review of the KMT's internal politics that discusses some of the problems Ma faces:
President Ma must reform the KMT
By Bruce Jacobs 家博

Wednesday, Sep 10, 2008, Page 8

In the second televised presidential election debate, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) expressed regret that his party had not reformed during its eight years in opposition. After the presidential election, I wrote an op-ed in this newspaper arguing that reform of the KMT remained an urgent issue. Today, more than five months later, the KMT still remains unreformed, but party reform has become even more urgent.

The KMT center, and not the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), has become the most important opposition to the Ma government. For example, on July 10, the China Times, one of Taiwan's most "blue" journals, attacked Ma's leadership in a damning editorial. Four days later, the Kuomintang News Network, a KMT English-language Web site, circulated a full English translation around the world.

Such KMT attacks on Ma and his government have become commonplace and the most severe strikes come from KMT legislators elected on the party list such as Chiu Yi (邱毅) and Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱). One example of KMT legislators refusing to listen to Ma was their refusal to pass all of his nominees for the Control Yuan despite the KMT's overwhelming majority in the legislature.

In principle, I agree with Ma's desire to "separate the party from the government" (黨政分離). But this policy has not worked. With such old, conservative men as KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung, former chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) in charge, the KMT irresponsibly nominated unsuitable people for the legislative elections.

Again, take Chiu as an example. After the 2004 presidential election, Chiu got on a truck and rammed it into the Kaohsiung District Court, a crime that was video-recorded, televised and for which he served a jail term.

Why did the KMT nominate a convicted criminal high on the party list where his election was a certainty? KMT officials said Chiu was rewarded for sacrificing himself for the party. In fact, Chiu and the other critics are beholden to the old conservative men, not to the KMT.

Rather than let the old conservative men run the KMT, Ma should have played a more active role in the nominations. If he had, there would be much less opposition now as many of those now attacking Ma would have failed in their bids to become legislators.

In nominating his Control Yuan list, Ma should have personally met with KMT legislative leaders, noted that his list was carefully constructed to represent different sectors and demanded that the legislature pass all (or none) of his nominees.

Ma's failure to discuss the issue personally meant that the legislature picked off several somewhat green nominees. He failed in his effort to be a president of all the people, as well as losing face, because he could not control an overwhelmingly KMT legislature.

There is only one solution. To move out the old conservative men, Ma must become the new KMT chairman. In an effort to reform, he can bring in some younger people who believe in reform to help implement it, such as Taoyuan County Commissioner Eric Chu (朱立倫) and Chiayi Mayor Huang Min-hui (黃敏惠) in such roles as secretary-general or vice-chairman.

This must happen very soon as the new team needs to be able to ensure that the nominees for county commissioner and mayor next year are truly interested in reform.

As the opinion polls show, Ma's presidency is in serious trouble. He has fallen from a high of more than 58 percent of the votes to less than half of the people expressing satisfaction with his government. Some aspects of this decline relate to his foreign and China policies, which seem to differ from his campaign speeches. But, the Diaoyutai (釣魚台) turmoil, for example, would have been much easier to manage had wild KMT legislators not helped create an atmosphere of increasing tension.

Clearly, gaining control of the KMT is much more than a domestic matter. And it is vital to the maintenance of Taiwan's democratic health. President Ma, please act soon!
There's a lot going on here. First and foremost, Ma was chairman of the KMT before for 18 months from 2005-7 and made absolutely no reformist changes. I think Ma learned his lesson about purification back in the early 90s when he was Justice Minister and attempted to go after corruption. President Lee apparently canned him for that. I am highly skeptical that Ma will ever be a reformist about anything, let alone his own party -- recall that Ma never called for political reforms during the martial law era. He converted to democracy only after it was politically safe for him to do so.

Second, this isn't just a KMT issue; it's a governance issue. I wondered aloud several times prior to the election whether the legislature would cooperate with Ma after he because President, because it has so much power. The ROC constitution was never meant to be more than the candy coating over a one-party state and the ROC presidency is not inherently powerful. Previous presidents derived their authority from their position as Party Chairman and as Party leaders with personal networks at their command. The local media have reported several times on Ma's distance from the rest of the KMT. Hence, even a vigorous and activist president might have trouble gaining ascendancy over the legislature, simply because he doesn't have the constitutional authority. It doesn't help that the Speaker of the legislature is Wang Jyn-ping, one of Ma's bitterest political rivals.

Finally, the issue of reform is bound up with the source of KMT power: money. The KMT has power because it distributes central government cash to its local networks through the construction-industrial state, and through the irrigation, fish, and agricultural cooperatives to the rural areas (as I recall both Speaker Wang and current KMT chair Wu came out of the ag cooperatives system). The legislature resolutely blocked reform of the agricultural cooperatives during the two Chen administrations. "Reform" that aimed at integrity, transparency and financial probity would seriously impair the KMT's local patronage networks. It is hard to believe that President Ma could make such a program a reality. No, I suspect that Ma is like the Padishah Emperor in Dune: he was permitted to take the throne with the understanding that the spice would continue to flow......

2 comments:

Tim Maddog said...

Michael, you wrote:
- - -
He [Ma Ying-jeou] converted to democracy only after it was politically safe for him to do so.
- - -

Ma has never "converted to democracy." You might recall that he's currently trying to annex Taiwan to China.

Tim Maddog

Roto said...

Ma's political view is clear, selling Taiwan to China. period. Personally I am not sure what he may gain from this, but at least he has nothing to worry, since his daughters are already safely located overseas.