Following the announcement on Monday last week that Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) had won the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) primary, beating four other contenders, now is a good time to talk about the dramatic changes that the century-old party faces.
Previously, the requirements for a KMT candidate involved age, seniority, experience, academic qualifications and family background. They were expected to have a moderate attitude and an elite image.
These selection standards typify the party’s hitherto dominant “establishment faction,” whose leading lights include former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and former New Taipei City mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫), one of the contenders in the primary.
In the Kaohsiung mayoral election on Nov. 24 last year, Han was “parachuted” into the city with no one thinking that he had much of a chance, but he went on to win. In the process, the so-called “Han wave” and “Han fans” became political buzzwords.
In the past, the radical end of the pan-blue camp had only marginal power and could not squeeze into the pantheon of the party establishment, which emphasizes “gentleness, kindness, respectfulness, frugality and courteousness.”
Now it has found a potential savior in Han, who comes from the grassroots, has a mediocre academic record, lacks an “official manner” and says that he was “left out in the cold for 10 years.”
Having seen the KMT conquer the thoroughly “green” metropolis of Kaohsiung, radical pan-blues are not willing to stop there. Now they are eager to send Han to the pinnacle of political power.
This dramatic change in the KMT’s internal ecosystem has caused Chu, as the main representative of the establishment faction, to become more marginalized.
Some adherents of the establishment faction shifted their support to Hon Hai Precision Industry Co founder Terry Gou (郭台銘), who is someone that they felt they could work with.
In the end, Gou was no match for “Han fans.” Gou’s and Chu’s opinion poll scores added together were barely more than Han’s, and the fact that Chu ended up in third place sounds even more like a death knell for the establishment faction.
Han has hardly achieved anything since taking office, but he is a persuasive speaker.
He now finds himself at the head of a collection of antiestablishment groups that have lost faith in the traditional elite.
These groups include corrupt local factions who have lost much of their power and influence, groups who were marginalized in elite-dominated politics and “deep-blue” figures who have fallen out of favor.
Together, they have launched a long march toward the Presidential Office.
On the way, they are not only battling the Democratic Progressive Party. Any outspoken member of the pan-blues’ “establishment faction” will come under fire from “Han fans” who see them as enemies of their “great leader.”
As “Han fans” get more radical and support Han more blindly, they could get out of control and even turn around and bite their master. This is a crisis that Han might have to face.
Sheng I-che is a cofounder of Youth Occupy Politics.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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