The Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) national congress finally starts today. With its pre-scripted events and agenda set to consolidate President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) power, the convention makes it clear that the party will avoid offering a big vision for Taiwan’s future, and that its repetitive pledges of party reform will once again be an empty promise.
At the congress, Ma is to be formally sworn in as the party chairman following his re-election in July. A major item on the agenda is the proposed revision of party regulations to make it mandatory for a KMT president to serve as party chairman.
If the proposal is passed, Ma, who is in his second and final term as president, would lose the KMT chairmanship in 2016 if the party wins the presidential election, as he would be replaced by the next president.
Ma has defended the proposed revision as an effort to enhance cooperation between the party and the government. However, some members have expressed concern that the proposal could be a way for Ma to avoid responsibility if the KMT suffers defeats in the seven-in-one elections next year and the presidential election in 2016.
In spite of the challenges facing it, the KMT will most likely ensure that the charter revision is approved today, and it will not be the first time the party has tailor-made party regulations for Ma.
When Ma was indicted on charges of misuse of the mayoral fund during his term as Taipei mayor in 2007, he stepped down as KMT chairman and announced his bid for the presidency.
The KMT soon removed its “black gold exclusion clause,” which denied members’ the right to be nominated by the party after being indicted on any charges, and further amended its regulations during the annual congress later that year so that only members convicted in a third trial would be suspended from the party.
Following Ma’s election as the president in 2008, he instructed the KMT to tighten party regulations again and stated that members convicted in a first trial would be suspended from the party.
Last year, when Ma was seeking re-election as KMT chairman, the KMT brushed aside regulations which stipulated that the party chairman can only be re-elected once, and forced the Central Standing Committee (CSC) to approve him to run for a third time.
The KMT has clearly become Ma’s own party that he has used to consolidate his political power since he was first elected chairman in 2005. In the name of party reform, Ma weakened the function of the party’s highest decisionmaking body, the CSC, and rammed through most major policies at another weekly meeting with a small circle of his aides.
He also alienated the party’s old guard with an attempt to bring new influence to the century-old party. Power transition to the party’s next generation is crucial, but Ma continues to grab all the power in the party and ignore his promise of attracting new talent.
Among the most important reform promises Ma have failed to fulfill is the return of ill-gotten party assets, which he has vowed to handle since 2005. While he renewed his pledge to get rid of these assets when seeking re-election as chairman this year, the KMT still owns Central Investment Holding, worth about NT$20 billion (US$679 million). The Ministry of the Interior’s report on political parties’ financial record this year showed that the KMT generated revenue of more than NT$240 million last year.