Wed, Jan 13, 2016 - Page 8 News List

Can the KMT regroup if it loses?

By Jerome Keating

The presidential and legislative elections are at hand and the majority of pre-election polls have indicated losses for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

Anticipating that result, three crucial questions are predicted for discussion in the aftermath. The first and obvious question will be why the KMT lost, especially after having controlled the presidency for eight years and having always held a legislative majority? Second and more importantly will be the discussion over why the KMT lost by so much? The third question is the most vital: Can the KMT regroup?

In answering these questions, five interlinked factors must be considered.

The first factor to examine is candidate choice. In looking at the three presidential candidates, the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) stands out as the best choice. Tsai has abundant governmental experience and has been battle tested in campaigns which have made her a seasoned veteran. Despite losses in 2010 against Eric Chu (朱立倫) in the New Taipei City mayoral race and in the 2012 presidential race, she has regrouped and reorganized the DPP. From all this, she has also learned the art of politics — which minefields to avoid and how to meet the needs of the broader spectrum. Now her only challenge is to deliver. Hopefully she will have a legislature that will help her.

People First Party PFP presidential candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) is a man whose day has passed. He only hopes to ensure that his party will win some legislator-at-large seats. His best opportunity was in the 2000 presidential elections when he was at his peak. His failure to get even 5 percent of the vote in the 2008 Taipei mayoral election was a sign of his marginalization. Since then he has been a dead man walking in political cirlces. When he leaves, his party will crumble; strike the shepherd and the flock will scatter.

Chu has been thrust in the role of a “Johnny-come-lately” candidate. He had shown early promise for the KMT, but recent events have diluted that hope. His narrow re-election as New Taipei City mayor in 2014 was a sign of a faltering support base. At a time when he should have been examining the reasons behind his narrow margin of victory, he was forced into becoming the KMT hopeful. A loss now would give him time to reflect on KMT issues. Will he take the opportunity?

The KMT’s future brings up the second question of why the party has been losing by so much since the November nine-in-one elections in 2014. Part of the answer is the unfortunate factor of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). Like it or not, Ma’s presidency has successfully and forever destroyed the KMT myth of “wise government” that had lingered from certain accomplishments in its one-party state days.

Examining the role of Ma is the key to understanding why the KMT fell. It is not just Ma who has been incompetent; governments have survived incompetent leaders before. The problem has been that Ma tied the credibility of the KMT to his image and his promise that he could bring back the glory days created by a one-party state. His promises proved to be misplaced. One of them was Ma’s ill-conceived vow to raise the individual income level to NT$30,000 per month. He never came close to achieving that in eight years. Unfortunately, not learning from this error, Chu has promised to achieve that level in one year if he is elected.

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