Fri, Jan 27, 2017 - Page 8 News List

KMT’s walls against its members

By Yaung Chih-liang 楊志良

Aside from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), is there any other political party in the democratic world that intentionally erects an elaborate series of barriers to prevent participation by its members?

In 2015, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) — then an opposition leader — and the wider pan-green camp had momentum on their side. The KMT was still in government, although many of its legislators were keeping a low profile, afraid that if they stuck their heads above the parapet they would be shot down like cannon fodder.

Last year, the electorate, quite justifiably, chose to transfer power to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). However, if the KMT is weakened to the point that it cannot fulfill its constitutional role as an effective opposition party, this will be detrimental not just to the growth of Taiwan’s democracy, but also to the Tsai administration.

Having stumbled into becoming a member of the KMT about 50 years ago and given my concerns as outlined above, after much deliberation in 2015 I put myself forward to be nominated as a candidate for the party’s presidential primary.

Having decided to throw my hat into the ring, I quickly realized that the application requirements were extremely demanding and the barrier to entry was set ridiculously high.

For instance, candidates must have been a party representative — fortunately, since I had previously held the position of government minister and, according to party rules, I automatically became a party representative.

In addition, the registration deposit was set at NT$2 million (US$63,775), while an additional NT$7 million must be shelled out to cover an administrative fee for the collection of party members’ signatures. The majority of party members either have not held the position of party representative or do not have pockets deep enough to pay for an application. This means that party members who might well have valuable ideas to contribute were excluded from putting their names forward.

Furthermore, the KMT membership roll is a complete mess. There are names registered at empty or unknown addresses, as well as individuals who have long since passed away.

There is also a rule that says only party members who have been paying membership fees for at least three months are qualified to execute their membership rights and cast a vote. Since payment of the membership fee requires a trip to a Chunghwa Post office — it should have been made possible a long time ago to pay the fee at a convenience store — most of my friends within the party were unable to vote.

In addition, the vast majority of the party’s Huang Fu-hsing (黃復興) military veterans’ branch enjoy membership rights without having to pay a fee. This means that a candidate who controls the Huang Fu Hsing controls the KMT. However, the composition, ideals and life experience of the branch differ substantially from the vast majority of the party’s members — let alone wider society.

A party that rejects the participation of its membership in such a way is destined to inexorable decline and a hemorrhaging of its membership.

For this reason, when I was collecting signatures, I declared that the overriding motivation for my decision to contest the primary was to bring the party to its knees, so that it could be rebuilt to live another day. Although I was unsuccessful in my efforts to destroy the KMT from within, the electorate gave the party a sound thrashing at last year’s presidential and legislative elections.

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