EDITORIAL: KMT steps up election magic

Sun, Apr 23, 2017 - Page 6

As it turns out, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is quite the magician. By the deadline for registering as participants in the party chairperson election, the six candidates had together submitted more than 720,000 supporting signatures from party members. That is 1.7 times the 420,000 members who are eligible to vote in the election.

If membership continues to grow at this pace, the party would have enough members to get its candidate elected in the next presidential election without even campaigning.

However, preliminary results reported in the media show that less than a third of signatures passed a party review. Former Taipei Agricultural Products Marketing Corp president Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) submitted 57,341 signatures, only about 35 percent of which were valid, compared with about 30 percent of the 221,891 for former vice president Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), 28 percent of 104,359 for former party vice chairman Steve Chan (詹啟賢), 24 percent of 108,233 in support of KMT Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), 19 percent of 128,888 signatures for KMT Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) and 18 percent of the 100,870 supporting former KMT legislator Pan Wei-kang (潘維剛).

The fight for supporting signatures was a matter of political scheming and electioneering.

The inflated list is certain to include names copied directly from the membership roll, as well as duplicate signatures. The candidates understand that the central party leadership lacks both the people and the time to check all of the signatures against the membership roll. At most, they might check membership numbers against ID numbers to find duplicates.

However, even if it were possible to digitally identify all the duplicate signatures, it would still be impossible to determine which of the candidates members actually support. If the party leadership resolves the matter arbitrarily, disputes are sure to follow throughout the campaign. In the end, the party will have to resort to either invalidating or recognizing all repeat signatures.

It is not surprising, then, that the party announced all six candidates would be allowed to compete in the election.

Requiring supporting signatures is a means to organize and mobilize supporters ahead of the election campaign. The signatures are evidence of a certain level of support within the party and, if they are converted to votes in the general election, help predict who could win for the party.

However, as it was conducted, the process was a sham.

The run-up to the KMT’s chairperson election has been marred by constant controversy. About 60,000 party members were added in just the first two weeks of the year, many of them allegedly dummy party members and gangsters, while member registration information was allegedly leaked.

These latest allegations of dubious practices in the collection of signatures follow two weeks of discussion about suspicions of bribery.

Only halfway through the chairperson election process, the endless chaos and confusion of the campaign has opened people’s eyes to the ongoing struggles within the KMT.

More conflict is sure to follow over the coming months as the party addresses the issue of its ill-gotten assets and ponders its inability to gain traction on cross-strait policy.

After all the merciless infighting the party has seen this year, the next party leader will have to expend a lot of energy finding ways to heal internal rifts and unite the party if the KMT is to rise from the ashes.