It’s official: President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has launched his election campaign for chairmanship of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
A quick glance at the history of KMT chairmanship polls since the first direct election for the position in 2001 shows an increasingly democratic process. In March 2001, Lien Chan (連戰), the sole candidate, won with 97 percent of the vote. Successive elections involved at least two candidates. In 2005, Ma won the race against Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) with 72.4 percent of the vote, while the current chairman, Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄), defeated KMT Legislator Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) in April 2007 with 90 percent of the vote.
Before 2001, only two chairmen — Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and before him Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) — held that position via undemocratic means, that is, by appointment.
On the Democratic Progressive Party side, the list of chairpersons — 17 altogether — tells a similar story, albeit one that was democratic from the very beginning (1986). The only question marks were certain periods of the presidency of Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) — from 2002 until 2004, and from 2007 until last year — when the president held the party chairmanship concurrently.
For short periods of time, both parties have had acting chairpersons who were not elected.
It is fair to say, then, that Taiwan’s democratization — from direct presidential elections to those at the county and legislative levels — has been accompanied by similar conduct within political parties.
But this season’s election for KMT chairmanship is odd. It harkens back to a period in the nation’s history when an individual did not become chairperson through a democratic process. The party’s eighth transition in chairmanship is a one-candidate affair, with Ma campaigning for an election that needs no campaign.
Arguably, the precedent of concurrency set by the Chen administration set a bad example. But at least the dual position of chairman-president occurred at a time when the country’s democracy was unquestionably healthier and when the legislature was dominated by the pan-blue camp, serving as a counterbalance to the executive. Not so today, where both are firmly under the control of the same camp.
Ma can say what he wants about wanting to reduce friction between the executive and the legislature, or between government and party, but in the end, his is a power play that runs against more than two decades of democratization. At best, it takes us back eight years to when Lien’s election was a foregone conclusion. At its worst, it takes us back to the appointment system that was in place when the KMT was an authoritarian party.
It is immaterial whether Ma is the single candidate in the “race” as a result of behind-the-scenes pressure or simply because nobody thought they stood a chance against him. What matters is that in a one-man race, time and money are being wasted for nothing more than kabuki theater.
That Ma has the gall to pretend to be in an electoral race when he does not have an opponent is an affront to the public’s intelligence. Worse, it dovetails with the regression in Taiwan’s democracy since he became president.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday last week, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Hsu Chiao-hsin (徐巧芯) wrote: “The KMT must fall for Taiwan to improve.’ Allow me to ask the question again: Is this really true?” It matters not how many times Hsu asks the question, my answer will always be the same: “Yes, the KMT must be toppled for Taiwan to improve.” In the lengthy Facebook post, titled “What were those born in the 1980s guilty of?” Hsu harked back to the idealistic aspirations of the 2014 Sunflower movement before heaping opprobrium on the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP)
The scuffle between Chinese embassy staffers in Fiji and a Taiwanese diplomat at a Republic of China (ROC) Double Ten National Day celebration has turned into a public relations opportunity for the government, Beijing and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Although the incident occurred on Oct. 8, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) downplayed it, only for the story to be picked up by the foreign media, forcing the ministry to respond. The public and opposition parties asked why the government had failed to remonstrate more strongly in the first instance. It is still unclear whether the ministry missed a trick
US President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival, former US vice president Joe Biden, are holding their final debate tonight. In their foreign policy debate, China is sure to be a major issue of contention for the two candidates. Here are several questions the moderator should pose to the candidates: For both: In the first televised US presidential debates in 1960, then-Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy and his Republican counterpart, Richard Nixon, were asked whether the US should intervene if communist China attacked Taiwan’s outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu. Kennedy said no, unless the main island of Taiwan was also attacked.
For most of us, the colorful, otherworldly marinescapes of coral reefs are as remote as the alien landscapes of the moon. We rarely, if ever, experience these underwater wonderlands for ourselves — we are, after all, air-breathing, terrestrial creatures mostly cocooned in cities. It is easy not to notice the perilous state they are in: We have lost 50 percent of coral reefs in the past 20 years and more than 90 percent are expected to die by 2050, a presentation at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Diego, California, earlier this year showed. As the oceans heat further and