Amid growing challenges over the legitimacy of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) bid for re-election as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman, KMT spokesman Yin Wei (殷瑋) yesterday dismissed speculation that the party was mulling amending its regulations in favor of Ma.
“There is speculation that the KMT headquarters is considering turning its party regulations into ‘self-benefiting rules for Ma,’ but we have never had such a plan,” Yin said in response to media inquiries.
Yin’s comment came after KMT Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) on Friday openly questioned Ma’s eligibility to seek a second re-election for chairman after his current term concludes this year.
Citing the Civil Associations Act (人民團體法) and Article 17 of the KMT charter, Tsai said leaders of any civil organization, including political parties, can be re-elected only once and that the party’s chairperson can only stand for re-election after serving a full, four-year term.
Ma was elected KMT chairman in 2005, but resigned in 2007, when he was embroiled in a corruption case for allegedly misusing his special allowance during his tenure as Taipei mayor.
The position was taken over by Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄), who served as party chairman until 2009, when Ma was found not guilty of the graft charges and was re-elected as party chairman.
“Even if President Ma insisted on seeking another term and won re-election, the election result could be nullified by a court,” Tsai said, citing an annulment case involving former Jhunan (竹南) Township mayor Kang Shih-ju (康世儒).
The Taiwan High Court in November last year invalidated Kang’s victory in the 16th Jhunan mayoral by-election in January last year. The court ruled that the re-election bid by Kang, who had served as the 14th and 15th mayor of Jhunan, despite having resigned during his second term after winning a seat in the 2009 legislative elections, ran counter to the Local Government Act (地方制度法).
However, Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) said on Saturday that because the laws did not specify whether the two-term limit referred to two consecutive terms or two terms in total, the ministry would respect the KMT’s own interpretation of the rule.
“The KMT’s charter allows its party chairperson to be re-elected once and according to the Ministry of the Interior, each political party can have its own definition of the two-term limit. We believe the ministry has addressed the matter and validated [Ma’s re-election bid],” Yin said.
Yin added that because the ministry had clarified that the Local Government Act did not necessarily apply to the Civil Associations Act and Wu was also chosen as KMT chairman through an election, Ma’s run for re-election was legitimate.
“We [the KMT headquarters] will go by the ministry’s explanation and carry out the matter in accordance with party regulations,” Yin said.
Meanwhile, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) of the KMT called for an intra-party consensus to support Ma’s bid for re-election.
Hau made the call on the sidelines of a groundbreaking ceremony for the second stage of the construction of the Taipei Welfare Center for the Disabled.
“The KMT must unite and seek consensus on the issue of [Ma’s] legitimacy to be re-elected as party chairman. After an intra-party consensus is forged, every one of us should jointly support our chairman Ma Ying-jeou’s [re-election bid,]” Hau said.
Responding to the controversy, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesperson Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) said it was not the first time the KMT had resorted to tailor-made mechanisms for Ma’s personal benefit.
“The KMT revised its party chapter so Ma could run for president,” Lin said.
Ma’s doubling as president and KMT chairman did not benefit the country as he has claimed, Lin added.
However, Lin said the DPP declined further commen because it is an internal matter for the KMT, which involves a power struggle within the party.
Additional reporting by Chris Wang