Many Taiwanese are so busy just trying to make a living that they do not care much about politics. You often hear people say that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) are “both the same.”
This makes it easy for those with vested interests in the KMT to hoodwink voters who are too lazy to think for themselves. Actually, the two parties are very different.
Last month’s local government elections made the differences between the two parties more obvious than ever. The DPP is not afraid to admit its faults. Acknowledging its electoral losses, the party chairperson immediately accepted full responsibility and resigned.
In contrast, some highly vocal single-issue groups that do not think that reform offends those with vested interests actually blame the government for not reforming hard enough.
The KMT cannot be expected to reveal the main reason for its electoral victories, but it has given the game away by rewarding those who helped it win. “Rehabilitated offenders” from local factions have been floating to the surface.
When one of them was revealed to have been found criminally negligent in a traffic accident, others defended him, saying that “saints are hard to find.”
The KMT is full of corrupt elements and it has plenty of “rehabilitated offenders.” The KMT chairman has even been traveling with “rehabilitees.” It would be quite accurate to rename the KMT “the rehab party.”
Civic groups, whose focus is “reform,” are different from local gang leaders with a long criminal record of corruption. While civic groups lack local roots, local factions are deeply embedded, and they are still manipulated by the KMT.
Civic groups like to let everyone have their say. They see “unity” as a dirty word and besmirch it as “royalism.”
Professional associations and local gang leaders unite when necessary to protect their interests, but they do not boast about it.
In party politics, you cannot win elections without unity. The KMT ruled Taiwan for a long time by sowing division among Taiwanese and dangwai (outside the party, 黨外) opposition groups.
When some people who want to stand for election as party chairperson say that unity is “royalism,” they are living in cloud cuckoo land. The royalism of Qing Dynasty reformer Liang Qichao (梁啟超) was about preserving the imperial system, but in a democracy there is no imperial system to keep. Dilettantes like them should not imagine that they are revolutionaries like Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙).
Talk of “radical transformation” is just that — empty talk that avoids reality.
When President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) resigned as DPP chairperson, it implied that the DPP was becoming less like the KMT and more like US parties. In the US, with its presidential system, the chairpersons of parties’ national committees are only responsible for organizing and raising funds for the electoral machine.
US presidents do not serve as the chairpersons of their parties and party chairpersons do not stand in presidential elections.
If the DPP became more like US parties, its party chairperson would devote their efforts to organizing and putting down local roots, and seeking harmony between civic groups and vocal local conservatives.
After letting people in the party have their say, the DPP must unite to fight the KMT’s corrupt local factions. If it does that, the differences between the two parties would become even more stark.
James Wang is a media commentator.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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