The Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) plan to bring in more young people through a series of “local elite symposiums” suffered a setback recently, attracting little interest amid the political fallout from the corruption scandal involving former Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世).
According to KMT members, the elite forums are to be held in 22 administrative regions to help the party recruit fresh blood and facilitate communication with grassroots party members, as the party prepares for the seven-in-one local elections to be held at the end of 2014.
Borough and village chiefs, township representatives, campaign volunteers and the party’s representative in local branches have been invited to attend the regional forums, which are presided over by KMT Secretary-General Lin Join-sane (林中森) and have so far been held in 15 cities and counties, the members said.
However, the majority of the attendees at the forums have so far been “relatively senior” borough and village chiefs and township councilors, while the young people they were hoping to attract were very few and far between.
The lukewarm response has raised concern among senior KMT members, sources said, adding the party could put the recruitment of new talent at the top of its priority list in future.
Sources said the regional forums were planned to revive the party after the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who doubles as KMT chairman, came increasingly under fire for a series of unpopular policy moves, including its stance on the import of beef containing ractopamine residue, a capital gains tax proposal and sharp increases in fuel and electricity prices.
The policies not only triggered a public outcry and drove Ma’s approval ratings to a new low, but also prompted several senior and local KMT politicians to openly criticize and distance themselves from Ma.
To salvage his dwindling credibility and the shifting allegiance of party comrades, Ma instructed party members to start organizing the forums last month, the source said.
However, allegations of Lin’s involvement in a graft case surfaced late last month, further undermining the reputation of the Ma administration and the party.
Lin’s alleged involvement came to light after Chen Chi-hsiang (陳啟祥), head of metal-recycling Ti Yung Co, accused him of accepting NT$63 million (US$2.15 million) in bribes to help the company secure slag treatment contracts from China Steel Corp and its subsidiaries in 2010, and of asking for a further NT$83 million this year.
A former member of the KMT “elite” class — a recruitment program set up by the party to bring in and train new talent — who requested anonymity, lambasted the regional forums, saying they were merely an approach to “consolidate the ruling power of the administration.”
Saying their voices had long been disregarded by the party, the former member said he had attempted on several occasions to offer his suggestions and advice to the controversy-plagued party, but had not received any response.
A young KMT representative, who also wished to remain anonymous, said the head of the party only remembers grassroots members when he is in the grip of a crisis, but turns a deaf ear to their opinions of others when his star is on the rise.
“I’m sorry, it was you that was unavailable then; now, it’s my turn,” the party representative said.