It is curious and surprising that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus is still obstinately toeing the line President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) sets — a lame duck with only months left in his second term of presidency — and thereby rubbing the public the wrong way and hurting its electoral prospects.
What it also inidicates is the powerlessness of KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫).
A few days after Chu said he supported calling an extraordinary legislative session, the KMT caucus whip on Monday said that most KMT lawmakers were against the idea and resolved yesterday that there would not be an extraordinary session.
Chu denied that it was a slap in his face, saying he had stated that he would respect the caucus’ decision. However, what was the role of the party as a whole in the matter? Was there no party-wide, or at least top-echelon-wide, discussion?
Maybe there was one, just not with Chu.
As recent reports cited “top government-party officials” as saying, allowing both the new and the old curriculum guidelines is “Ma’s bottom line” (despite the fact that it is actually not legally feasible for new and old “guidelines” — rather than textbooks — to be simultaneously effective).
It would seem to support what Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), in his loose-cannon style of talking, said about Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa (吳思華) being someone’s — presumably Ma’s — “hatchet man.”
The KMT caucus probably cannot be blamed for bypassing the KMT chairman and following the orders of an outgoing president. After all, the KMT now has a chairman who had been expected to play, but is not playing, an essential role in the presidential election campaign — namely running as the presidential candidate — and instead wound up stuck with a presidential candidate widely perceived, even among KMT legislators and members, to be a B-list politician and predicted to be an also-ran in next year’s election.
It was Chu who refused to rise to the occasion when the party practically begged him to represent it in the coming election.
He let go that opportunity, just as Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), another party heavyweight, did.
However, unlike Chu, Wang is in his seventies.
If a “naked retirement” is what Wang is hoping for, staying above the fray might not be a bad idea, and that is exactly what he implied yesterday by saying that he is “without a presupposed stance [about the curriculum controversy]” and would only “follow the system.”
Chu is said to be the party’s rising star, but his star is falling and will continue to fall with his inaction.
As New Taipei City mayor, he secured a second term only by the narrowest of margins in last year’s local elections. Since his re-election, the Formosa Fun Coast (八仙海岸) fire and the allegations that city officials had taken bribes when conducting safety inspections at the water park, have seriously harmed his image as a competent leader. Compounding the damage is the detention of former New Taipei City deputy mayor Hsu Chih-chien (許志堅) on corruption charges.
He will almost certainly be forced to resign as KMT chairman if the party loses the election next year, which is highly likely.
Chu could take a responsible stance in his capacity of party helmsman to help mitigate the protesting students’ furor, a move that could save his political life, which he must surely want to continue after stepping down as chairman.
However, so far he has made no such attempt; instead, he is just another party member clinging to the coat-tails of Ma’s power structure — the days of which are numbered.
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