Ketagalan Media: Save the Sinking Ship: Can the KMT Reform?

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By all measures, the January 2020 election was a blowout re-election for President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). She set a record for the most votes ever received in a presidential election in Taiwan, and increased her margin of victory over her opponents from 56.1% to 57.1%–a remarkable feat for an incumbent in any country. While the DPP lost about 10% of their seats in the legislature, they retained a majority–and with allies, a fairly strong one.

The last national election in 2016 produced a similar result: A blowout win for the DPP in both the presidential race and in the legislature. Clearly the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has an electibility problem in national elections.

Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), who resigned to take responsibility for the defeat on January 15, has been nothing short of a disaster, failing at the most basic tasks. Financially the party is in dire straits, and he caused their richest patron–Foxconn founder Terry Gou (郭台銘)–to leave the party in a huff after Wu repeatedly rigged the rules of the presidential primary to favour of Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) over Gou.

Even within the party there was an outcry over the party list of candidates to be allotted proportionally in the legislature. Wu picked not only himself for the list, but also candidates widely perceived to be in the pocket of the Chinese Communist Party. He abandoned even the few feeble attempts his predecessors had made to reach out to younger voters, openly promoting candidates who almost entirely qualify for pensions, and few of them were women. Even the basics were neglected: In the couple of weeks prior to the election their website went down, “server not found” suggesting their server went down and they didn’t fix it, or they failed to pay their hosting bill. Voters looking to find out about their platform, the hoards of international media descending to cover the election, could only stare at a “server not found” screen for their efforts.

As the election results were rolling in, the calls for the party to reach out to youth were already being voiced. No wonder, the party has little support with people under 40. In a mock election held in December of 11,369 students–of whom 2,775 were high school students and rest college students–the party won 2.99% of the party list vote, putting them (in order) behind the New Power Party (NPP), the DPP, the Taiwan Statebuilding Party (TSP), the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) and the Green Party. That doesn’t bode well for the party’s future.

There were also calls to abandon the “1992 Consensus” and reform the party’s China policies to bring them closer in line with public opinion. KMT Youth League head Hsiao Ching-yan (蕭敬嚴) pointed out that Taiwanese “achieved consensus in refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of the 1992 Consensus” and went on to advocate a new consensus that is explicitly anti-unification with China. The DPP and President Tsai’s stance–that the Republic of China Taiwan is already an independent nation, rejects the “1992 consensus” and is much closer to mainstream public opinion. The KMT’s pro-engagement policy with the People’s Republic of China as the path to riches and peace, the “1992 consensus” and advocacy of eventual unification with China are decidedly unpopular.

Read the full analysis by Courtney Donovan Smith on the challenges ahead:

Save the Sinking Ship: Can the KMT Reform?

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