The past year has been characterized by a certain amount of confusion in Taiwan. President Chen Shui-bian (
Other than damaging the nation's image in the international community, these corruption scandals have also slowed down national development and generated public disappointment toward the government.
Judging from the impact of the anti-corruption campaign initiated by former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) and his red-clad followers -- combined with the results of the mayoral elections in Kaohsiung and Taipei -- young political workers at the grassroots level understand that the public is dismayed with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
Particularly after the recent elections, some people have gone from being supportive of and holding high expectations for the KMT to being critical of it and abandoning it outright.
Using a stricter standard to examine the election results, the KMT did not emerge victorious and it could even be said to have suffered a defeat.
Many people thought that the Taipei and Kaohsiung mayoral elections would turn out to be a vote of no confidence in Chen. However, the results suggest that Taiwanese have not given up their belief in the DPP. The KMT lost the mayoral race in Kaohsiung and did not obtain the results it had hoped for in Taipei, where only 64 percent of the electorate voted.
The reason most people did not choose the KMT at a time when the DPP's approval ratings were at an all-time low is that the KMT has not been able to give the public hope for the future, nor does its values strike a chord with the heart of the Taiwanese.
"Hope" and "values" do not arise from the chairman's exalted ethic or unique integrity, nor do they come out of the chanting of reform slogans or never-ending pledges of localization. Rather, they are made up of the party's overall image, behavior, ambition and progressive abilities.
Much criticism has been aimed at the KMT concerning the conviction of Keelung Mayor Hsu Tsai-li (
If we continue to be satisfied with not being worse than our political opponents, then we will never be able to inspire public confidence.
Despite its long history, the KMT has always wanted to rejuvenate itself. It stresses localization, but cannot free itself from the influence of local factions. It praises rejuvenation, but its young politicians are all successors to current factional leaders. It insists on reform, but all it has to show for its efforts are politicians shouting reform slogans. Where there really are battles to be fought, when resolution and determination is necessary and when drastic measures are required, the KMT is conspicuously absent.
The public does not only want Ma to be clean, it also wants the KMT to be capable of self-reflection, reform, progress and localization.
With the DPP facing difficulties and China's rise on the world scene jeopardizing Taiwan's international status, the KMT -- which ruled Taiwan for more than 50 years and helped turn it into a successful modern state -- should take action instead of taking a wait-and-see approach.
With everyone talking about the 2008 presidential election, the KMT needs to take a step back and try to see whether it is qualified to take over the reins and how to earn the trust of the public. Gone are the days when Taiwan could bask in the economic miracle it created 20 years ago.
Back then, China's booming economic rise was still years away. Faced with China's 1.3 billion consumers, do we have any vision of how to deal with globalization trends other than the normalization of cross-strait direct transportation links? Have we offered any reflections on, or criticism of, big business as it makes inroads into society, politics and the economy? Have we chosen to stand on the side of the general public at a time when public assets are being privatized and the fairness of national policy is being questioned?
How many of the priority bills we promised during election campaigns have actually been initiated? When vote-buying was rampant, we proposed the Election and Recall Law (選罷法). When there was political interference in the right to hold gatherings, we proposed the Assembly and Parade Law (集遊法). Do these beneficial and progressive laws that could transform society really represent our true ideals?
If we only offer these policy suggestions to respond to public calls for reform, we are no different than governments that only deal with a problem once it appears. If the KMT comes back to power, it will need to make sure that it does not commit these kinds of mistakes, as it will mean a betrayal of public trust.
If we are capable of introspection and able to take action, now is the time to take the lead and move forward. The most urgent task facing the KMT is to offer hope to Taiwan, touch Taiwanese and become a determined and bold force.
The KMT's reform should be placed within the framework of the democratization and localization movement of the post-martial law era.
For the next one or two decades, the KMT should offer a new logic for the operation of political parties and a new discourse on the structural reform of the central government. We should always examine ourselves and retake the right to set the agenda for progressive discourse. We must not let the KMT fade away.
Chen Shih-yu and Chiao Chun are the founders of the KMT Legislators' Assistant Revolution Association.
Translated by Daniel Cheng
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