On Wednesday, six aspirants for the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) picked up registration forms for the chairperson March 26 by-election, despite the disappointment of some pro-reform KMT members who had urged the party leadership to lower the threshold for candidacy.
Under the KMT’s regulations, only party members who have served on the KMT Central Committee or Central Advisory Committee are eligible to seek election.
The Central Committee has 210 members, who are elected at the party’s national congress from a pool of no more than 420 candidates, half of whom must be nominated by the KMT chairperson and the other half by about 1,600 party delegates.
As for the Central Advisory Committee, its members are appointed by the KMT chairperson, but must be approved by the congress delegates.
Candidates are required to pay a hefty, nonrefundable “handling fee” of NT$1.6 million (US$47,417) and collect the signatures of at least 3 percent of total KMT members, of which there are about 320,000.
The handling fee seems to be another deliberate attempt by the party’s leadership to prevent younger or less well-off members from contending for the post.
The party’s 3 percent endorsement threshold also poses a challenge to aspirants who are not among the top echelon or who are not a member of any of the longstanding factions.
These limitations are why in the past decade the KMT chairperson elections or by-elections have started to look like a game of “musical chairs,” with the post being occupied mainly by the party’s old guard or its devotees.
The requirements are apparently a strategy put into place to rig the elections, to ensure that the party’s top position, the holder of which is almost guaranteed a presidential nomination, remains exclusive to the party’s chosen few.
The KMT’s humiliating defeat in the Jan. 16 presidential and legislative elections has given rise to some unusual, but constructive reform proposals, particularly from younger members who have repeatedly called for the abolition of the chairperson electoral requirements and the realignment of the party’s “spirt” to become more Taiwan-centric.
Sadly, the responses of the KMT leadership and the New Party, whose founding members quit the KMT more than two decades ago, suggest that the pleas for reform are falling on deaf ears.
Instead, KMT headquarters said that it plans to leave the matter to the discretion of the new chairperson, as a revision of the rules would have to be approved at a national congress, which is unlikely to be held before the by-election due to time constraints.
Such an excuse is preposterous in light of the fact that — after receiving the green light from the KMT Central Standing Committee — it took the party’s leadership just 10 days to hold an extempore national congress and nullify the presidential candidacy of Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) in October last year.
New Party Chairman Yok Mu-ming’s (郁慕明) remarks that the KMT’s priority is to rid itself of members who disagree with its “spirit” and core values provides further evidence that the KMT is a bigoted party that only pays lip service to reforms.
In the same way that people always say they are going on a diet “tomorrow,” the KMT’s oft-stated goal of reform looks set to be postponed if it happens at all.
Before then, the party’s chairperson by-election will be just another one of its games — with the result already rigged.
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