With candidates eyeing a seat in January’s combined legislative and presidential elections poised to kick off their campaigns, the financial status of the nation’s major political parties has once again come under the media spotlight.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), despite being the nation’s largest opposition party, is known for its lack of financial resources when compared with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
Opposed to the idea of party-run businesses, the DPP’s funding comes mainly from subsidies and small donations. It doesn’t even own its party headquarters in Taipei, but leases it instead.
Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times
As per regulations in the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act (公職人員選罷法), political parties who win at least 5 percent of -legislators-at-large in an election are entitled to have their election campaign costs subsidized by the nation at the rate of NT$50 (US$1.73) per vote per year until the legislators’ terms are served.
Currently, the subsidy allotted to the DPP is NT$180 million.
Every year in July, the Ministry of the Interior posts online asset reports that were filed by political parties the previous year.
According to the 2009 report filed by the DPP, the party at the time was about NT$140 million in debt. Sources have said that although the party has repaid about NT$100 million over the past three years by using public donations. However, it still owes about NT$22 million.
Data from the ministry showed that the DPP’s total expenditure for 2009 was about NT$536 million, NT$173 million of which came from political donations.
As for personnel expenditure, the report said DPP spending was NT$76 million with a staff of 125, less than 5 percent of the KMT’s total, which amounted to NT$1.5 billion.
According to the report, DPP finances, as of 2009, stood at about NT$300 million, with fixed assets in land and real estate accounting for a third of this. However, most of the land and real estate, including the party’s branch office in Taipei City, are held as collateral or mortgaged to banks for loans.
Sources said that the DPP’s financial burden is likely to get heavier as a result of the approaching election campaigns.
The KMT, on the other hand, has far more party assets.
According to the ministry’s 2009 political party asset report, the KMT possessed 142 plots of land and 163 pieces of real estate.
The ministry’s data showed that the KMT’s total expenditure that year was NT$2.6 billion, with personnel expenditure exceeding half of that amount (NT$1.5 billion).
More than 700 full-time staff members work in the central party headquarters and local party branches, and that the number could easily exceed 900 if drivers, workers and the re-hiring of retirees is added.
The 2009 report also showed that the KMT’s had about NT$29 billion in assets, with about 90 percent of that in investments, NT$1.7 billion in liquid assets, NT$920 million in real estate, with debts of about NT$110 million.
It is estimated that the KMT’s total expenditure per year on salaries, pensions and day-to-day office management amounted to NT$220 million, not including election campaign spending.
Central Investment Holding Co (中央投資), one of the two KMT-owned corporations, owns the KMT’s party headquarters, located on Taipei’s Bade Road.
The KMT had proposed a “party-owned businesses disposal plan,” which said it would auction off Central Investment Holding in June last year, but several deals fell through, meaning it has had to be relisted four times.
When Central Investment Holding was to be auctioned for the fourth time late last year, the KMT initially planned to keep its party headquarters on the first to fifth floors, the 12th floor and the two basement floors, while transferring ownership of the building to whoever won the bid.
However, the auction failed to attract bids, leaving the KMT as the sole owner of the company, the sole owner of the party headquarters building and the land on which the building stands.
When President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) became KMT chairman in 2005, he promised to dispose of party assets and facilitate the passage of the Political Party Act (政黨法). However, opposition parties have said that since the Ma administration came to power, not only had no progress been made on the issue of the KMT’s assets, there has also been little movement on the proposed act.
The political party act, dubbed one of the four “sunshine laws,” aims to ban political parties from operating or investing in profit-making enterprises, including television and radio stations.
When the Ma administration came to power, it withdrew the proposed political party act that was first sent to the legislature on Aug. 11, 2008. The Ministry of the Interior then didn’t send a draft of the act to the Executive Yuan for another review until May 19 last year.
According to sources who wished to remain anonymous, there were only three clauses left to review during Executive Yuan’s inspection session in late December last year, but six months later the draft act has yet to be passed by the Executive Yuan.
DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) criticized the KMT, saying that during its period of autocratic rule, it had, through inappropriate and illegal measures, expropriated the properties of Taiwanese and was now using this as a foundation to run an unfair political competition.
Ker said that the KMT knows full well that party assets are important election campaign tools, especially since the Political Donation Act (政治獻金法) does not specify a ceiling for the financial support a party gives its candidates. That is why the KMT doesn’t want to touch the proposed act, he said.
Ker added that when the DPP caucus wanted to draft laws concerning unjust party assets, the KMT caucus said it would be included in the proposed act.
DPP Legislator Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) added that her proposal for a draft political party act included explicit clauses concerning the recovery of unjust party assets, but had been blocked by the pan-blue camp 85 times.
LACK OF PROGRESS
“If the KMT does not dare to face a bill that prohibits political parties from gaining an unfair edge through unjust party assets, what difference is there between the KMT now and the KMT back then before democratic reforms?” Chiu said.
In response to criticism from the DPP caucus, the Executive Yuan said there were set -procedures concerning the passing of legislation and that there were clauses in the 47-clause draft act that were still under discussion.
KMT Culture and Communication Committee director Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) added that the legislating of the proposed political party act had to respect the executive authorities’ professional assessment and legislative procedures.
Su reiterated the KMT’s declaration that it would no longer maintain any party-owned businesses, adding that it was also a fact that Central Investment Holding had been listed for auction four times and had yet been able to find a buyer.
“We will keep working toward realizing our promise that there will be no party-owned businesses in the future,” Su said.
Additional reporting by Tseng Wei-chen and Huang Wei-chu
Translated by Jake Chung, Staff Writer
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