Sat, Jul 30, 2005 - Page 8 News List

KMT's fate tied to its willingness to reform

By Thomas Hung 洪茂雄

After the overwhelming victory of Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairmanship election, could Ma and his supporters' wishful thinking help the century-old party return to power in the 2008 presidential election? Let's review a few examples of regime change in former Eastern European communist states as a possible indication.

In 1987, a wave of democratic reform swept across Eastern Europe. Many communist regimes collapsed and were succeeded by democratic forces driven by dissidents that had been persecuted under the previous regimes. But a few years after the dissolution of communist authority, communist parties were able to reinvent themselves as center-left parties. Newly-formed parties calling themselves the Socialist Party or the Social Democratic Party even returned to power. They were able to do this because these parties were determined to reform themselves and rise from the ashes. Without such determination, these parties would not have survived.

These parties underwent reform on three fronts.

First, they completely discarded party-state thinking. Regardless of whether the peaceful transformation in 1989 was bottom-up or top-down, the Communist Party was able to adjust its policies to accommodate the wishes of its citizenry. It managed to revise the nation's constitution in a timely fashion, renounce its secure position as a single-party authoritarian regime and jettison redundant regulations. Also, the communist regimes firmly announced their determination to draw a clear line between themselves and their forerunners. Then they held elections in order to establish the healthy competition of party politics.

Second, the parties renamed themselves and changed their organizational structures. Apart from the Communist Party's continued use of that name in the Czech Republic, all other Eastern European communist parties renamed themselves the Socialist Party, the Social Democratic Party or the Left-Wing Democratic Party in order to completely wipe out the remnants of the Leninist regimes. Former communist states such as Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Macedonia and Lithuania made an all-out effort to carry out reforms, since this was the only way to take back power. Retaining the communist party name would have resulted in utter defeat -- the fate of the Communist Party in the Czech Republic.

Third, these parties handed over party assets to state coffers. The party-state assets were returned to the governments of Eastern European nations after the dissolution of their communist regimes. Given that most headquarters of the communist regimes were in the heart of the capital city, the democratization process led to the renewal of the cityscape, and the concentration of communist apparatchiks and their security forces dissipated.

The KMT and the former communist states of Eastern Europe all followed Leninist ideology. In the early period of the democratization process in Eastern European states, the Communist Party was committed to sweeping reforms in order to purge the nation of party-state ideology and forge a new constitution in step with the times. Only in this way could the former communist authorities return to power.

Given the successful transformation of former communist states in Eastern Europe, could the KMT follow in their paths? The KMT's fate in the 2008 presidential election depends on whether the party is able to implement the three kinds of reform listed above in a convincing manner.

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