Wed, May 27, 2015 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: The KMT’s aversion to democracy

During the nomination process for its presidential candidate, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) had an opportunity to prove it has truly assimilated democratic values, but its behavior yet again reflected its origins as a totalitarian regime.

Since the KMT arrived in Taiwan as exiles from China, there has never been an occasion when more than one candidate has competed for nomination in its presidential primaries.

However, as no high-profile KMT politicians were willing to run — such as KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫), Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) or Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) — Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Shiu-chu (洪秀柱) and former department of health minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良) registered — giving the party an opportunity to choose its nominee via a democratic process.

According to the KMT’s framework for presidential primaries, candidates who register must collect more than 15,000 signatures endorsing their bid, and if more than two candidates achieve that figure, then a second-phase primary is launched. In the second phase, a poll is conducted, with the candidate who receives the most support — as long as a threshold of 30 percent of party members is reached — winning the nomination.

If there is only one candidate, it is sufficient that they collect the requisite number of signatures.

In the KMT’s primary this year, both Hung and Yaung registered for nomination, but only Hung collected enough valid signatures; therefore the KMT could just select her as its official candidate. However, the stumbling block is the “could,” as KMT regulations state that the party can still instigate the second phase of the process by conducting a poll on Hung’s bid among party members, and if Hung fails to win the support of more than 30 percent, she would be eliminated.

In this eventuality, the party leaders would be free to nominate their own candidate directly, with complete disregard for the wishes of grassroots party members.

Politicking such as this might strike some as a little unpleasant. Of course, the KMT wants to see a viable candidate running for president, but when there are a set of rules in place, it should play by them.

At first, it appeared that the KMT had fully incorporated democratic norms, as it prepared to employ a set of regulations that in theory allow any of its members to enter the presidential primary. However, the subsequent development negates this optimism, as it indicates that the party elite is trying to use the primary regulations to eliminate a candidate they consider “not strong enough” to compete with Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).

This is a surprising move, because Hung is not an irrelevant figure within the party: She has served eight terms in the legislature and is the first female deputy legislative speaker in the nation’s history. Surely she is “somebody” in the party and she has every right to run in the presidential election on the KMT ticket.

Intentionally blocking a party member who has gone though the required process to gain nomination would simply be undemocratic. The KMT might say that the DPP did not make its nomination through a democratic process: Tsai’s nomination was the result of negotiations within the party. However, that has no bearing on the current situation, because it is not wrong for a party to choose its own candidate according to its process, but it would be wrong for a party to try to prevent a candidate from running after they fulfilled all the requirements and followed due process.

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