Thu, Jun 02, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: KMT needs democratic reforms now

The two Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) vice chairmen who are regarded as the most likely successors of KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) -- Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) -- appeared almost pitiful yesterday at the party's Central Standing Committee. They not only "bared their souls" to the KMT's old guard, but also faced an interrogation on their proposals for the future of the party.

People should realize that the committee members are "old thieves" (老賊) who will not relinquish their power and position. They are Lien's palace guards, and their future in the KMT will be determined by whether Lien remains KMT chairman or not. If Lien were to step down, this old guard would also fall from power, and the Central Standing Committee would be filled with a new generation of Wang or Ma supporters.

It is therefore not surprising that 22 members of the Central Standing Committee petitioned Lien to remain as chairman for another term. Their first consideration is not the party's best interests, but rather their own. And Lien is also reluctant to step down. So, from a comfortable position of power, they are able to put down Ma -- the upstart who wants to win the chairmanship for himself.

This situation is typical of a Leninist party such as the KMT. Lien has yet to state his intentions, and is clearly assessing public opinion. The chairman, who holds a PhD in political science from the prestigious University of Chicago, has failed to carry the torch of democracy in Taiwan, but instead has become a bastion of reaction, desperately upholding the authoritarian legacy of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石).

This is an ideal time to conduct a comparative study of the DPP and the KMT. Neither party has changed much over the years. The KMT's authoritarian tradition is unshaken, and the DPP, while opinionated and feisty, suffers from a fondness for political infighting. Most recently, in the run up to the May 14 National Assembly elections, many DPP members lambasted Chen's moderate policy in his recent dealings with China.

Criticism of Chen has abated since the DPP won the elections. But despite the drubbing he got at the hands of party members, he has little choice but to show them goodwill.

The two parties' political culture is a reflection of the divergent cultures of Taiwan and China. The KMT, which came out of China, maintains a culture of intrigue and secrecy, while the DPP has a spirit fortified by the grassroots vigor of Taiwan's emergent democracy. It will hardly matter whether Ma or Wang takes over, if the KMT does not undergo thorough reform. If they are unable to overcome the party's authoritarian culture, the KMT will continue in its rut.

But the most urgent question now is: Will Lien retire or not? The party's rank and file can't take much more. After Lin Chin-chuan (林金全), chairman of the Taipei City Borough Warden Association (台北市里長聯誼會), called for Lien to announce his intentions, Kuo Yun-hui (郭雲輝), the association's national chairman, called for greater democracy within the party. He criticized the manipulation of the chairmanship elections by a small number of people, who did not listen to the voice of rank-and-file members.

Whether Lien will contest the election or not is an internal matter for the KMT. What we are concerned about more is: How can a political party without a democratic culture effectively engage with China -- and how can it represent the people of Taiwan?

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