President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has been sending out invitations for the 19th Congress of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to civic groups in an apparent effort to consolidate his power within the party amid a snowballing political turmoil caused by an investigative agency’s alleged illegal wiretapping, people with knowledge of the matter said.
A KMT member who spoke on condition of anonymity said party headquarters has invited hundreds of members from “pro-Ma civic organizations,” including voluntary and women’s groups that have campaigned for KMT candidates in past elections, to attend the party congress.
It is an unprecedented move by the KMT, as the meeting has traditionally been attended only by party representatives, ex-officio members and party affairs staff, the KMT member said.
“Although these ‘special guests’ may not be given the right to speak or submit proposals at the meeting, their presence could help create an ambience of solidarity and neutralize potential criticism directed at Ma during the event,” the member said.
Critics have described the move as a desperate attempt by Ma, who is also the chairman of the KMT, to quash growing dissatisfaction among grassroots party members with his handling of a highly contentious investigation into alleged improperly lobbying by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).
It also comes amid rumors that a group of younger KMT members are mulling a plan to demand that Ma sign at the meeting an affidavit pledging to take full responsibility for the party’s performance in next year’s seven-in-one elections.
However, the inclusion of pro-Ma individuals in the meeting have displeased several members of the KMT’s Central Committee, with some deciding not to show up at the congress as a gesture of silent protest.
The month-long political storm was set off by the revocation of Wang’s KMT membership last month after allegations of improper lobbying. It intensified after the emergence of evidence showing that the Special Investigation Division of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office may have abused its wiretapping power in its investigation into Wang’s alleged misconduct.
Several civic groups have vowed to stage a major demonstration against the president outside the venue of the congress, which was originally scheduled for Sept. 29, but was postponed “to prevent possible confrontations involving demonstrators from spiraling out of control and disturbing the public tranquility,” the party said.
The venue and date for the congress have yet to be finalized.
According to a source familiar with the KMT’s internal affairs who spoke to the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper), Ma has scheduled several interviews with the media after the Double Ten National Day on Thursday to reaffirm his stance on the alleged irregularities involving Wang and to cement his status as party chairman.
Presidential Office spokesperson Lee Chia-fei (李佳霏) yesterday dismissed the story, saying Ma was heavily engaged in his official duties as president and has no plans to hold intensive media interviews after the National Day.
“Many media outlets have invited Ma to an interview, but the president is too tied up with national affairs and can only accept a reasonable number of invitations given his limited time,” Lee said.
Ma has conducted only one radio interview this month. He averages three interviews per month, Lee added.