Having become enfeebled as a decisionmaking body in the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the Central Standing Committee’s (CSC) election on Sept. 7 should have aroused little public attention — that was until a group of young KMT delegates last week accused 26 candidates of engaging in vote swapping.
The so-called “26 Alliance” and its vote swapping schemes are not a new phenomenon in the KMT. The alliance is a subgroup developed from the “60 Alliance,” which has dominated past Central Committee elections. Some members in the 60 Alliance later formed a smaller group called the “30 Alliance,” which works in three-person groups to procure enough votes from more than 1,000 party delegates to ensure each other’s success in CSC elections.
The “26 Alliance” this year works in the same way, with each of the involved candidates being responsible for procuring votes from 20 to 40 party delegates in order to secure the 520 to 1,000 votes they need to be elected. A CSC member who wished not to be named said alliance members had to pay a NT$200,000 membership fee.
While the scale of vote swapping varies, party candidates who are involved in the practice represent the KMT’s old guard and local factions, and their continuous manipulation of CSC elections shows that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) party reform plans have had little effect since he took over as its chairman in 2005.
In his party reform plan, Ma had pledged to eliminate black gold politics — vote buying and influence peddling. He has decreased the CSC’s influence by holding weekly meetings with close aides and top party officials, called the “Zhongshan Meeting,” in which most major policies are made.
The annual CSC elections, however, have continued to be dominated by local factions, with bribery and vote buying scandals almost every year. While the CSC had become little more than the “rubber stamp” in the party’s decisionmaking process, competition for a seat in the committee remains fierce as many use the posts to promote their business interests or increase their political connections in China.
In 2009, all the CSC members resigned after two were found to have given gifts to party delegates. The KMT held the first CSC by-election in the party’s history and Ma demanded that the candidates refrain from forming alliances, sending gifts or holding banquets in order to bribe delegates.
Ma’s pledge did not stop the election scandals.
Facing allegations of vote swapping this year, Ma has declined to comment. He expressed his concern about the allegations via KMT Culture and Communication Committee director Hsiao Hsu-tsen (蕭旭岑), and asked the Evaluation Committee to launch an investigation.
The day after the accusations were made, the committee said it had found “no evidence of vote swapping schemes.”
As the group of young KMT delegates said: It is almost impossible for the KMT not to recognize the long-existing vote swapping alliances, and the party’s indifference to such activity will only make it unattractive to young talent.
Ma is to finish his term as president in 2016 and step down as KMT chairman in 2017. His low approval ratings as president pose a great challenge to his chairmanship, and the vote swapping alliances indicate that power struggles in the post-Ma era will get worse.
If Ma continues to ignore the problem during this year’s CSC election, the KMT will become more depraved and party reform will remain a pipe dream.