EDITORIAL: KMT has yet to hit rock bottom

Thu, Oct 06, 2016 - Page 8

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers have advised top Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) officials, such as former vice president and KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰), to raise funds after the party said that salaries for its workers have to be delayed because the Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee froze its bank accounts. It might sound sarcastic, as the Lien family is known for its wealth, but it was also scathingly realistic, as KMT workers’ anxiety has been compounded by the party’s inaction.

Former KMT spokesperson Yang Wei-chung (楊偉中), now a member of the committee, on Tuesday said that delaying salaries was a ploy to provoke panic and instigate hostility against the committee. He has a point; the committee has said that the KMT has NT$85 million (US$2.7 million) in a political donation account, but is choosing not to use that money to pay salaries on the grounds it needs the funds to maintain party operations.

It is difficult to understand that logic, as what operations can be maintained without workers?

Yang also pointed to the KMT’s withdrawal of NT$520 million one day after the passage of the Act Governing the Handling of Ill-gotten Properties by Political Parties and Their Affiliate Organizations (政黨及其附隨組織不當取得財產處理條例) in August, which it said was to pay “party workers’ salaries,” but delayed paying its employees until the party’s union called for it.

According to DPP lawmakers, political donations account for less than 3 percent of the KMT’s revenue, compared with more than 30 percent of the DPP’s revenue.

DPP Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said that Lien and his wife invited more than 50 businesspeople to their golden wedding anniversary celebration, and that “NT$300,000 per person would easily have generated NT$180 million for the party” if Lien were to ask for it.

DPP workers told the Liberty Times (sister newspaper of the Taipei Times) that when the DPP was at its nadir in 2008, burdened by NT$240 million in debts, the chairperson’s salary was cut in half and top officials’ wages were reduced by 10 percent, while half of its offices were given up and various ways to solicit small donations were instituted. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who took over as DPP chairperson in 2008, even called on her siblings, who are well-off entrepreneurs, for donations.

“What has the KMT done in order to pay its workers?” a DPP official asked.

It is a good time for the KMT to trim its payrolls and stop overpaying its top officials, which would be a more practical way to lower its annual personnel expenditures of NT$140 million — 7.6 times more than that of the DPP.

However, as history has shown, the KMT has always been “good at infighting, but weak in defending itself,” and this time is no exception. KMT Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) wasted no time advancing her political agenda — which many see as echoing Beijing — and those in the party who disagree with her have chosen to air their disapproval abroad, despite having put on a harmonious facade during the KMT’s national congress last month to pass a policy platform they now see as problematic. All of this was accomplished while the party continues to say that it is cash-strapped.

Maybe the KMT is not at its lowest yet, or it could be that it is naive about the crisis it is in. Or it could simply be hopeless.