Mon, Aug 03, 2015 - Page 12 News List

Hung out to dry?

KMT presidential candidate triumphantly wins one horse race, pledges to return her party to former glory

By Joey Neihu  /  喬依內湖

Illustration: Tania Chou

Oh dear. Bad start. Even the party staffer, roped-in to fulfil MC duties, had difficulty remembering the name of his party’s newly-anointed presidential candidate, as he tried to whip party delegates into a frenzy at the start of this year’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) national congress.

“Dear comrades, please welcome President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), President Ma and, err… Comrade Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱).” Oops.

Hung, the pro-Beijing electoral liability that nobody wanted to win, has amazingly done just that. Most of the conference hall appeared to still be in shock.

This has to be one of the worst political own-goals of all time. Hung was initially encouraged to run by party elders, believing her polarizing views would force other, more moderate party members to stop prevaricating and throw their hats into the ring. The plan backfired badly. Despite much behind-the-scenes cajoling, nobody else could be persuaded to run. Not one. After the mess that Ma has made, who can blame them?

The orders from on high seemed to be, big up Ma to divert attention from Hung.

“Ma, Ma, Ma, MAAA… President Ma Ying-jeouuuuuu… screeched two female staffers at the top of their voices in an orgy of sycophancy.

The man himself, sporting a plastic grin and waving to nobody in particular, made his way through the crowd, desperately trying to find someone to shake hands with for the cameras, while a bombastic soundtrack of beating drums hammered away in the background. Boom-ba-boom, ba-boom-ba-boom.

One after the other, party bigwigs filed into the hall to a gushing welcome from the screaming go-go girls. “Hello Wang Jin-pyng (王金平)... Hello Eric Chu (朱立倫) ... Hello Lien Chan (連戰)...” On it went, ad nauseam.

For a fleeting moment, the aging waxworks must have felt like team Chinese-Taipei entering an Olympic stadium in matching KMT-logoed, powder blue polo shirts as they busily pressed the flesh. Clearly, the idea of the dress-down was to give the party a common touch. Unfortunately, many had chosen to tightly cram their polo shirts into their trousers, revealing the pregnant paunches of the well-fed political elite.

But, wait a minute: Where was the golden girl? Hadn’t she arrived with Ma? Finally, the camera swung to Hung, as if reluctantly acknowledging her presence. Her petite frame was being manhandled into position by a party minder, so that she would cross the path of former KMT chairman Lien Chan for a perfectly choreographed photo op. They duly clasped hands, and victoriously raised their intertwined digits above their heads like Olympian athletes on the winner’s podium. Honestly, what on earth were the party’s spin doctors thinking? Loser Lien famously crashed-and-burned during the 2000 presidential election, only managing to gain a feeble 23 percent of the vote and then again in 2004. Still, in the parallel universe of the KMT, Lien’s a champion.

Now for the main event: Hung’s acceptance speech as presidential candidate for a country her politics doesn’t recognize even exists. KMT Chairman Eric Chu and Hung took the stage. A smiling Chu — relief, I think — handed her a massive flagpole to wave, and she did, robotically slashing it back and forth as if cutting down all obstacles before her — an image at odds with her amiable aunty expression — each wave synchronized to hoarse cries of “Hung Hsiu-chu for president!” from the MC.

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