The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is indeed moving forward and undergoing “normalization.” The only problem — as the KMT sees it — is that the progress is weakening its influence, and that is something the party is reluctant to face up to.
The latest example of this is that the KMT on Friday last week expelled four members for running in the local county commissioner and mayoral elections next month without having been nominated by the party.
The members are Chiayi City Council Speaker Hsiao Shu-li (蕭淑麗), former Taitung County commissioner Kuang Li-chen (鄺麗貞), former KMT legislator Yang Li-huan (楊麗環) and former Taipei Department of Labor commissioner Su Ying-kuei (蘇盈貴).
All four ignored their expulsion and insisted that they would contest the elections even if it meant losing their party membership.
This is very different from the days when a KMT nomination ensured election and running without the party’s endorsement meant crashing out.
After losing power and its illegally obtained assets, the KMT has had to face democratic realities and is becoming just another regular party.
In the democratic era, human rights are protected and everyone is free to follow the party of their choice, or indeed, to follow their own path.
It was a very different story under the KMT party-state. At the time, a high-school teacher friend of mine discussed democracy in class. The students found it refreshing and mentioned it in their weekly journals.
When a military instructor at the school reported this to the authorities, my friend was expelled from the KMT and imprisoned for seven years.
Later, no high school risked offering him a job, and it was only when his membership was restored that he dared marry his long-term girlfriend.
Compared with the White Terror era, the KMT has been making progress, but only because it has been forced to do so by voters, whose election choices have pressured the party to become more democratic.
Democracy destroyed the Leninist-style parties in eastern Europe overnight. The KMT escaped instant collapse thanks to former president and former KMT chairman Lee Teng-hui’s (李登輝) push toward localization, as well as the party’s ill-gotten assets and complex, decades-long relationships with vested interests.
However, local parties have grown strong and the KMT has lost its assets.
As it is no longer able to do as it pleases, the KMT has been forced to rebuild.
The only remaining problem is the party’s pro-China ideology, which runs counter to public opinion. It is now the biggest obstacle to the normalization of Taiwan and the reform of the party.
KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), a Taiwanese, is unable to mobilize the leaders of the party’s local factions, as former president and chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is active in the party’s Huang Fu-hsing (黃復興) military veterans’ branch and close to the local faction leaders.
Given the party’s division, in practice, it is falling apart.
The KMT is an abnormal party, and its party-state rule turned Taiwan into an abnormal country. There is no question that it is the guilty party behind Taiwan’s two major “abnormalities” over the past few decades.
The fact that its members are no longer afraid of being expelled is a sign that the party has taken a great stride toward normalization.
James Wang is a senior journalist.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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