Thu, Dec 06, 2018 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Han might disrupt the KMT’s unity

The nine-in-one elections were disastrous for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), but it is by no means clear that either Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) or the KMT can be complacent.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has acknowledged the need for the DPP to change. Her resignation as party chairperson was the first step in that process.

The KMT needs to change, too. That much was painfully obvious from the routs in 2014 and 2016.

Wu is not the man for that job.

To persuade an electorate, a party needs vision; to persuade a party, the leadership needs a rallying call. That call depends on the times.

Former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) rallied his troops against a common enemy, vowing to “retake the mainland” and refusing to deal with the Chinese communists, saying: “Gentlemen do not disport with bandits.”

His son, former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), continued that tradition, saying there would be “no contact, no negotiation and no compromise” with China.

Chiang Ching-kuo’s “three noes” would later be revised by former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who advocated “no unification, no independence and no use of force.” The Chiangs would have been horrified with Ma’s more accommodating position, but one could argue he was adjusting to the realities of the day, just as former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) did when he pulled back from the rhetoric of “retaking the mainland.”

Since he became KMT chairman, Wu has used the slogan “unity, renewal, retaking power.”

The KMT has long had a problem with unity. One major factor in the lack of unity derives from the fundamental division within the party between the mainstream and members with more local affiliation. Wu might be worried about a challenge from the more locally affiliated Kaohsiung mayor-elect Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜).

Han is not associated with the KMT mainstream leadership and would be impeded by the party’s entrenched mindset of a succession hierarchy.

However, he did show his hand last year, when he challenged Wu for the party chairmanship. Despite being roundly defeated, Han became a different proposition altogether during his mayoral campaign, surprising everyone with the successful messaging and easily understood vision he presented.

This must have spooked Wu if he is considering running in the 2020 presidential election. There is reason to believe he was willing to sacrifice the “unity” he professes to champion to consolidate his base and to sabotage Han’s campaign.

Wu is an old hand. He must have known his comments about Presidential Office Secretary-General Chen Chu (陳菊), the popular former mayor of Kaohsiung, being an “old sow” would have been politically damaging for the party, and especially for Han. Yet he made the comments anyway, albeit in a non-public event, and footage of him making those comments was leaked.

Han said the comments were inappropriate, then-KMT New Taipei City mayoral candidate Hou You-yi (侯友宜) said it was wrong to level ad hominem attacks and then-KMT Taipei mayoral candidate Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) said Wu should apologize.

Was Wu complicit in the leak? If so, it speaks volumes of his commitment to party unity and of his concerns over Han’s ambitions. If not, the aftermath still revealed significant cracks, as other candidates failed to support their chairman.

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