The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus’ withdrawal on Monday of its pension reform proposal, citing “pressure from rank-and-file party members,” highlighted the conundrum outlined by caucus convenor Sufin Siluko (廖國棟) just three days before when presenting the proposal on Friday last week.
“Party headquarters are taking only some people into consideration, but the party should face all people nationwide,” he said.
As the Legislative Yuan yesterday began reviewing pension reform proposals, protesters outside the building shouted at lawmakers — especially those from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and New Power Party — calling for justice. Even some KMT legislators who agreed to file proposals, including pension reform team convener Lin Wei-chou (林為洲), were subjected to loud criticism.
Lin was “let off the hook” after he explained to the protesters that the proposal had been withdrawn.
The caucus’ decision to propose a draft came after KMT Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) had — at a rally organized by the group behind the protests -— discouraged a plan to submit a version that she suspected would play into the DPP’s hand.
The KMT legislators have been out of tune with party headquarters since Hung became chairwoman, dragging the party further toward the far end of the political spectrum.
The caucus’ reversal was therefore a surprise, because Sufin had earlier taken a stand against party headquarters, which is solely focussed on next month’s chairperson election.
The withdrawal of the bill marked a retreat by the caucus — which really has the popular mandate — in the face of party central.
The pressure might not have come from Hung or her camp, but it did not have to given that the other five candidates in the election have been carefully currying favor with party members, the most vociferous of whom — if not the most numerous — are retired military personnel, public servants and teachers.
The candidates visited the protesters camped outside the legislature and echoed their complaints that the government has been trying to “strip them of their dignity.”
They promised that the KMT would rebuild a “just society” if it were to regain power and said reforms are needed, but not of the kind the DPP has proposed. However, they never explained how the KMT would reconcile protesters’ grievances with the need for reforms.
However, when an answer was finally presented, it was crushed within days by vested interests.
KMT lawmakers might not all be Hung supporters, but neither are they truly independent. In the end, legislators belong to various chairperson candidates’ camps and are subject to pressure from rival factions.
It is most unfortunate that the policymaking process has turned into a propaganda battle among KMT chairperson candidates.
Those who protest pension reform like to compare themselves to the Sunflower movement and point to the subsequent resurgence of the DPP. However, while the DPP benefited from the 2014 movement in later elections, its victories were largely due to the KMT’s failures. It is also crucial that the Sunflower movement, despite the KMT’s allegations, was not directed by political parties.
Even if the two movements were remotely comparable, it is important to remember that the DPP refrained from and indeed condemned partisanship, electioneering and slogans on its stage.