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Tue, Jan 30, 2001 - Page 3 News List

KMT membership drive wraps up after five months

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Two days before the KMT closes its five-month-long membership re-registration, the party said it was satisfied to have had more than 910,000 party faithful re-register as KMT members.

"We are happy to see that there are over 100,000 new members. But for those who are not identified with the party, we do not intend to seek them out [to re-register]," said the director of the KMT's department of organizational management, Chen Tai-i (陳泰一). Chen was referring to former top party leaders -- such as former premier Tang Fei (唐飛) and Huang Hui-chen (黃輝珍), who are seen as members of former chairman Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) faction and have shown little interest in re-registering as KMT members.

Compared to its previous claim to have 2.5 million members, the new figure seems to be a sign of the party's difficulty in transforming itself into a genuine democratic political party. But some top leaders disagreed.

"In a democratic society, there won't be too many people who bear strong partisan identities. However, this will be a milestone of whether the KMT will accomplish its democratization [within the party]," associate professor of politics at the Soochow University, Hsieh Chen-yu (謝政諭) said, adding that the party's membership was expected to shrink since it had been an authoritarian party, which was highly capable of absorbing and expanding its membership. Hsieh is also a board member of the KMT's development committee.

Another associate professor at the same university, Emile Sheng (盛治仁), said that it was more important for the party to win back its true party loyalists in order to regroup itself after the presidential defeat rather than focus efforts on gaining a sizable membership to make itself look good.

"I would say that if half of its members joined the party just for the sake of the party's reinforcement instead of taking advantage of some insurance coverage or other promotional benefit, the party's morale will be boosted," Sheng added.

Sheng also said he has doubts about party Chairman Lien Chan's (連戰) leadership.

"Unlike former Chairman Lee who was seen as a political strongman, Lien's political charisma does not stand out. Therefore, at a time when [the KMT] needs a great deal of dash, his role as a party leader becomes less competitive [than People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜)]," Sheng said.

As far as political reorganization is concerned, senior member of the PFP Liu Sung-pan (劉松藩) said yesterday that he believed there would be more possibilities for cooperation if the PFP would ally with the KMT rather than with the DPP.

Sheng disagreed, saying that both parties were unlikely to cooperate with each other since they would be competitors in the elections. Hsieh said the KMT would develop different cooperation models with various political parties depending on the political issue concerned.

The KMT will hold its first direct election for party chairmanship on March 24.

This year all 910,000 party members will be entitled to cast their vote for the new chairman whereas, in the past, only some 2,000 party representatives had the right to vote for the chairmanship.

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