Monday marks the first anniversary of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) most devastating electoral defeat since its founding.
On Jan. 16 last year, the KMT only managed to win 31 percent of the total vote in the presidential race, the lowest since the party lost power for the first time to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 2000. Due to an intraparty split it was reduced to a minority party with only 35 of 113 legislative seats.
The defeat prompted calls from younger and pro-localization KMT members for the party to become more Taiwan-centric. Some even proposed a name change, either by removing the term “Chinese” in the party’s appellation or replacing it with “Taiwanese.”
The calls for reform and change had boosted morale within the KMT and ignited the hope that the party would regain public support and return to power, like the DPP did after 2008.
However, given the direction the KMT is heading and it might be steering toward in the future, that hope appears increasingly dim.
Over the past few weeks, the KMT has seen fierce competition and political maneuvering as it prepares for its next chairperson election on May 20. The race is to determine who will take the helm of the KMT for the next four years and possibly become the party’s presidential candidate in 2020.
So far, three KMT heavyweights have thrown their hats into the ring: KMT Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), KMT Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) and former vice president Wu Den-yih (吳敦義).
The roster of candidates has been criticized by many as being unimpressive and indicative of the KMT’s pending demise, with netizens creating a meme comprised of one word out of each of the three candidates’ names to describe the KMT’s prospects: “Hau wu chu,” which is homophonous to “so helpless” in Mandarin.
The KMT under the leadership of either of the three candidates would struggle to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Hung is probably the party’s most unpopular leader ever, having drawn ire from members of the KMT Central Standing Committee over a series of party election changes last month.
Hung has also been a magnet for controversy since assuming the post in March last year. Her perceived intention to push the “one China, different interpretations” framework toward the “one China, same interpretation” has unnerved many pro-localization and moderate party members.
Her hawkish handling of the thorny issue of the KMT’s ill-gotten assets has led to the resignation of one of the party’s vice chairmen, Steve Chan (詹啟賢), who prefers negotiated solutions to confrontations with the Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee.
As for Wu, his unpopularity even goes beyond the party. A survey published last month by the Taiwan Brain Trust think tank showed that Wu is the least favorite politician out of a list of 12 high-profile political figures from both the pan-green and pan-blue camps.
The former vice president has been dogged by negative labels, such as being ingratiating and a habitual liar. Also, his relatively advanced age of 68 might not bode well for the KMT’s endeavor to attract young voters, as he could reinforce the public’s perception of the KMT as an “old and outdated party.”
Hau’s situation is not much better. His two terms as Taipei mayor have left behind scandals that include the Taipei Dome project, the Twin Star project, Songshan Cultural and Creative Park and Syntrend Digital Park.
Instead of moving up the political ladder, Hau ran for a Keelung legislative seat in last year’s elections and lost to DPP Legislator Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應).
It seems like the KMT’s prospects are not only helpless, they are also hopeless.
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