Mon, Aug 04, 2008 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: KMT standing committee struggles to stay relevant

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

As the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) highest decision-making body, the Central Standing Committee (CSC) was once the center of the party’s power structure. However, the function of the committee was weakened after the setup of the Zhongshan meeting (中山會報) in 2005 by then party chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

The Zhongshan meeting, held with KMT top officials as a preparatory meeting before the committee’s weekly meeting, left the committee with little de facto power as it became little more than a rubber stamp for the meeting’s proposed policies.

Ma’s promise of no one-party state under his administration after assuming office in March further marginalized the party and the committee. Only 40 party members registered to compete for the 32 seats at the CSC election last month.

KMT Legislator Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), who was re-elected as a committee member, challenged Ma’s efforts to separate his administration from the party, and said the party and the government should work closely together and assist each other.

“It’s impossible to separate the KMT and the government because we party members also need to accept the consequences of government policies,” she said.

Hung said the CSC should serve as the negotiation platform for the party and the government, and the committee’s importance should not be ignored.

In last month’s committee member election, KMT legislators dominated by grabbing a majority — or 19 — of the 32 seats, while no government officials joining the election entered the committee.

KMT Legislators Chu Fong-chi (朱鳳芝), who was also re-elected as a committee member, said the committee has an irreplaceable function in the party, and suggested that Ma should also attend the committee to hear the party’s advice.

Before the party lost power to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 2000, government officials made up half of the committee as “designated members” appointed by the party chairman. Other CSC members were elected by about 200 Central Committee members.

After Ma took over the chairmanship in 2005, he pushed for direct election of the CSC, seeking to make the decision-making body more transparent.

The members have been elected by more than 1,000 party delegates since then.

Direct election to the CSC made it easier for legislators and other well-known figures, such as former KMT chairman Lien Chan’s (連戰) son Sean Lien (連勝文), to attract votes and enter the committee.

Regardless of the structure of the CSC, the power and attention appear to have shifted to the government and the Cabinet since the KMT regained power.

However, political commentators have said that Ma seems to be at odds with his proclaimed efforts to separate his administration from the KMT when he and KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) agreed late last month to have top Cabinet members attend the KMT’s weekly committee meetings regularly starting this month.

The decision was confirmed and approved by the CSC last week after Ma and Wu agreed that a platform should be built between the government and the party to enhance communication.

Executive Yuan Secretary-General Hsueh Hsiang-chuan (薛香川) will attend the CSC regularly on behalf of the Cabinet starting on Wednesday, while other Cabinet members and KMT city and county heads will take turns reporting to the committee.

Political watchers perceive the move as an attempt by the Ma government to win support from the KMT and the CSC which, largely controlled by party legislators, is essential to push the government’s policies in the legislature.

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