Wed, Feb 16, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: KMT needs reform, not politicking

On Monday, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) publicly announced that he intends to run for the chairmanship of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in May. In making the announcement, preceding an official announcement by KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) that he intends to step down, Ma would seem to be mounting a challenge -- and creating a different impression from the mild and modest manner he has cultivated in the past.

In the last day or two, Taiwan's political commentators have begun to discuss the pros and cons of Ma's bid. If the KMT's new chairman is directly elected by the party's roughly one million members -- a break from the ugly tradition of the incumbent chairman appointing his successor -- it will certainly serve as the first step towards democracy within the party. What is funny is that the KMT, which is more than one hundred years old, has started to democratize only after losing power. What a long wait it has been for its members.

Since the KMT lost its hold on power in the 2000 presidential election, its historical burden has become unbearably heavy. The problems the KMT has to resolve include national identity, ill-gotten party assets, party pensions and the merger with the People First Party (PFP). The new chairman of the KMT will have to face up to all these problems. Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), who has not yet announced that he will run for the KMT chairmanship, is considered sophisticated and proficient at behind-the-scenes maneuvering, and therefore more suitable for the KMT chairmanship. If Ma takes over the chairmanship, the KMT's merger with the PFP will fizzle out immediately, for PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) is politically senior to Ma, and will naturally refuse to take orders from him. Therefore, the chances for a merger are slim if Ma is elected.

Those who favor Ma argue that although Wang is better at political strategy, he will not have the guts to tackle the issue of KMT party assets. The public is likely to be more accepting of moves to reform the KMT if they are proposed by the more charismatic Ma. The public now believes that KMT members can no longer ignore the fact that the party assets are monopolized by a powerful few. If Ma becomes the party chairman, he will certainly hope to throw off the historical baggage that prevents the KMT from regaining its hold on power.

If Wang becomes KMT chairman, his impartiality to preside over legislative sessions in his role as speaker will be challenged by the DPP and other parties. This is why Wang supports Lien to continue as KMT chairman.

But Ma has always been careful to protect his image, and has cultivated a reputation of being akin to political Teflon. As a result, he also has very few allies within the KMT who will support him all the way. Some critics have said that Ma's political career has been a smooth ride and that he is like a hothouse flower, who has needed a protective environment in order to thrive. And even in the relatively straightforward environment of the Taipei City Government, recent incidents have greatly damaged Ma's reputation, making it clear that he still lacks sufficient leadership ability. This line of reasoning is Ma's biggest obstacle.

The KMT is the nation's biggest political party in terms of members and wealth. For this reason, the people of Taiwan should be concerned about who will become the party's next chairman. But actually it is immaterial who assumes the post. What is really important is whether the KMT is able to undergo internal reform. Now that Ma has thrown his hat into the ring, he should come forward to outline the measures he will undertake to reform the KMT. The emphasis should be on reform, not on who wins the struggle for power. It is also in line with the high expectations that many people have for Ma.

This story has been viewed 3897 times.

Comments will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.

TOP top