In his concession speech, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Eric Chu (朱立倫) followed a KMT custom and announced his decision to step down as party chairman as a way of taking responsibility for the party’s devastating loss in Saturday’s presidential and legislative elections.
Chu pledged to re-examine the direction of the KMT’s policies, selection of personnel and failure to grasp the pulse of public opinion, but stopped short of apologizing for any specific policies implemented by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration in his two terms.
Chu’s resignation alone did not amount to an acknowledgement of failure on his part or of the mistakes made by Ma and the KMT; it was a formality that neither suggested repentance nor a determination to push for party reform.
According to the KMT charter, Chu can seek re-election as chairman as long as he follows procedures by stepping down and allowing one of the party’s vice chairmen to serve as interim chairman.
The election for a new party leader must be held within three months of his resignation.
However, it would mean more to voters if Chu had stepped down as New Taipei City mayor, the job he is expected to return to after a three-month leave of absence.
Given that the KMT managed to hold onto only two of the 10 legislative seats representing New Taipei City that it held, Chu should step aside to allow for the election of a new mayor who could better represent the “new opinion” of the city’s residents.
Meanwhile, the evasive attitude of KMT Secretary-General Lee Shu-chuan (李四川) at a post-election news conference late on Saturday at the KMT’s headquarters in Taipei reflected the party’s long-standing unwillingness to reflect on its mistakes.
When asked what could have contributed to the KMT’s defeat and whether the party would consider revising its cross-strait policies, Lee said that the party would take into account all possible factors and publish a self-reflection in the next few months.
Pressed by reporters, he acknowledged that the controversy surrounding Chou Tzu-yu (周子瑜) — the Taiwanese member of the South Korean pop group TWICE — could have contributed to the KMT’s losses.
A video of Chou’s apology — published on the eve of the elections — for briefly holding a Republic of China flag during a South Korean TV show triggered widespread anger in Taiwan, with many people blasting Ma’s “one China, with different interpretations” framework as a self-deceiving illusion.
Ma’s apology, in a video also released on Friday, for the public discontent caused by what he said were the “the timing and manner” in which some of his policies were implemented, also reeked of impenitence.
The party’s reluctance to acknowledge its mistakes is going to make it more difficult for it to pick itself up from Saturday’s disaster, particularly after losing 3 million votes and 29 legislative seats compared with the 2012 elections.
The only reason the DPP was able to win the presidential election — and win an unprecedented majority in the legislature — after sustaining a similarly disastrous defeat eight years ago is because it has endeavored to learn from former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) mistakes.
It also managed to persuade many of its older members to take a backseat to younger ones and strove hard to be more in-sync with public opinion.
However, given rumors that the KMT chairmanship is likely to be filled by one of the party’s old guard, such as Ma, Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) or Chu, any hopes the KMT might have of returning to power four years from now are likely to be just a pipe dream.
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