Mon, Feb 04, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: The `localized' KMT, a local legend

What is this ben tu pai? Maybe something to eat? What it certainly is not is a political force that is going to dig the DPP government out of the problems caused by its minority in the legislature.

We admit to being as overoptimistic as anyone. After the legislative elections cut the pan-blue camp's advantage over its pan-green opponents by more than 20 seats, we, along with most other commentators, said that while the green camp lacked a majority in the chamber, they could probably cobble together enough votes to get the DPP's legislative agenda passed. To do so they had to rely partly on the independents and partly on the "localized" KMT, that faction of the KMT which, generally appalled at the party's flirting with the Chinese communists and complete abandonment of any pretence to even remotely care about the interests of Taiwanese, was less than happy with Lien Chan (連戰) and the mainlander neo-conservatives who were now running the party.

In the eyes of some commentators it appeared that this group was all the more powerful because we didn't actually know who was in it -- there was no self-declared membership, such as there is with DPP factions or there was with the New KMT Alliance back in the early 1990s. The very lack of identifiable members seems to have built up the group's reputation for uncanny political skills and Talleyrand-like political deviousness. It was, however, thought that Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) knew who was in it, and could influence them, which is why the DPP naively voted for him on Friday.

Well, here's a lesson from Friday's showdown over the legislative speakerships: There is no such group. It is the political equivalent of an urban legend. And your votes for Wang were thrown away.

That doesn't mean that there aren't Taiwanese legislators in the KMT, of course. Nor does it suggest that all Taiwanese in the KMT are absolutely happy with Lien's leadership or the direction of the party. But let us face the facts: Why would Taiwanese join a party which, except for the period of apostasy during Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) leadership, has never given a fig for them or their political concerns? Two reasons leap to mind: wealth and power. The so-called "localized" elements of the KMT are not political idealists crusading for a better Taiwan -- if they were they would have spent 25 years in jail along with Shih Ming-teh (施明德). They are flagrant opportunists whose only loyalty is to whoever can buy them. And that is still the KMT.

This is a truth so bitter to some that they don't want to admit it. The current brouhaha about the secret vote in the legislature is a direct result of not wanting to face reality. If only the vote were secret, goes the logic, then people would be able to betray their party -- and presumably the platform on which they were elected -- more easily. This is nonsense, and pernicious nonsense at that. People have a right to know how their representatives vote. But the current way of thinking seems to be that if it were made more easy to betray your party, then the blue camp's solidarity would be damaged. Myopic rubbish! The last thing Taiwan needs is a legislative system in which duplicity and double-dealing are made easier.

In the end it all comes down to money. As long as the KMT is the nation's third-largest business conglomerate, there are many reasons why those less idealistically motivated will throw their lot in with it. Destroy the KMT's financial power and you will destroy its hegemony. The party's history of theft and racketeering is well known. What is the Ministry of Justice waiting for?

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