Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) was yesterday appointed director of the KMT’s Central Policy Committee, becoming the first non-lawmaker to take up the key role of coordinator between the party’s central headquarters and its legislative caucus.
Tsai’s appointment was approved by the KMT Central Standing Committee at a closed-door meeting yesterday afternoon presided over by KMT Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), who said her decision to choose Tsai for the post was made in accordance with the needs of the party.
Traditionally, the director of the Central Policy Committee also doubles as the KMT’s caucus whip, to ensure that the stance of the caucus is aligned with that of the party leadership.
However, this will not be the case for Tsai, after the KMT caucus reached a consensus earlier this month to separate the two roles to increase the autonomy of the legislative caucus.
Instead, the KMT caucus is to elect a convener, who will then serve as the caucus whip.
As Tsai has long been regarded as a political extremist because of his often radical rhetoric, his appointment was widely interpreted by the media as Hung’s attempt to improve the “combat ability” of the KMT caucus, which saw the number of seats it holds plummet from 64 to 35 in January’s legislative elections.
KMT Culture and Communications Committee deputy director-general Wang Hung-wei (王鴻薇) said the party leadership was seeking to draw on Tsai’s combativeness and the ample experience he has accumulated during his two terms as a lawmaker, which would be conducive to achieving the integration of the party headquarters and the caucus.
Wang shrugged off speculation that the KMT caucus’ new policy of electing its own whip is an attempt to transfer power from the party’s headquarters into its own hands.
“I believe the Central Policy Committee will continue to work closely with the party’s caucus to improve the quality of the party’s supervision at the legislature,” Wang said.
Former KMT legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) — who was appointed by Hung yesterday as one of three deputy directors of the Central Policy Committee — said that because Hung was leading a party faced with serious challenges, appointing a former KMT lawmaker to helm the committee could help restore the party’s competitiveness.
“Nevertheless, it is vital that we respect the operations of the party caucus, since it is backed by the will of the people,” Wu said.
Former KMT legislator Su Ching-chuan (蘇清泉) and former member of the now-defunct National Assembly Chuang Lung-chang (莊隆昌) were also designated as deputy heads of the policy committee.
Tsai said he accepted the appointment after being moved by Hung’s decisions to give up her salary as KMT chairwoman and to spearhead the party’s reconstruction at a critical time.
“I am willing to learn from all of my party comrades in the hopes of helping the party regain its strength,” Tsai said.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) said Tsai’s appointment makes sense because Hung was elected with the support of KMT fundamentalists.
“It is a way for her to show her attitude toward die-hard supporters, but as to whether such an appointment can win support from the general public, we will leave that to the KMT to worry about,” Wang said.
KMT lawmakers were divided over the appointment, with some — such as Chang Li-shan (張麗善) — lauding Tsai’s “strong combat capability,” while others — such as Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) — saying that the position should have been given to someone more stable and better prepared.