The KMT is a financial disaster, they have lost the support of younger voters by decisive margins, are far out of the mainstream on the key national sovereignty issue and seem bereft of new ideas. They are in need of radical reform and a new vision in order to secure a future (see parts two and three of this series).
They now have a chance to embark on a new path. Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) resigned on January 15 to take responsibility for the loss, and a new by-election is to be held to choose his successor on March 7. A new Central Standing Committee will also be elected.
Who will be in the running? So far there are already four declared candidates: Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣), former KMT Vice Chairman and former Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), National Taiwan University Professor Chang Ya-chung (張亞中), and Blue Sky Action Alliance Chairman Wu Chih-chang (武之璋). Chang and Wu are long shots.
Johnny Chiang is relatively young at 47, and can make a case he is better suited to reach out to young voters. He handily won re-election in his Taichung district, and is one of the highest profile lawmakers in the party.
He is a power player in the Taichung Red Faction, which could both help and hurt his chances. On the plus side, he could get the support of other factional politicians and their supporters in the party membership. On the down side, the factions are traditionally associated with political patronage, corruption and sleaze in general–though Chiang himself appears to have kept his nose pretty clean.
However he would, as a pre-1949 Taiwanese local, run into opposition from the elites in the party who emigrated with, or are descended from, the KMT exodus from China in the late 1940s. It is unclear if the powerful elites–mostly based in the north around Taipei–would be willing to tolerate a Taiwanese from Taichung. True, about to resign Wu Den-yih is also ethnically a Taiwanese from central Taiwan–but he has been deeply loyal to the elites for his entire adult life. Chiang’s loyalties may be questioned. Most KMT chairs have been from the mainlander elites.
Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) is a party heavyweight, and as Vice Chairman he knows his way around the party. He is also the son of former Premier and General Hau Po-tsun (郝柏村), who is revered in deep-blue circles. In the past, serving as Taipei Mayor has been a stepping stone to becoming president–and traditionally (it even used to be a party rule) the party chair and the presidential candidate were one in the same, so on paper this should be his for the taking.
Unfortunately for him, he’s not much of a success story. After leaving the mayoral post, his legacy was decisively damaged in two ways. First, to help the party he sought the mayorship of Keelung, Taipei’s much smaller neighbor. He was ignominiously defeated. In Taipei, they elected as mayor political independent Ko Wen-je, who campaigned on a platform largely consisting of being the antithesis of Hau.
Though a hearty and hale man, at 68 he is also hardly the man to appeal to the youth–though he denies being old. In his favor, his legendary father and his mainlander elite background will serve him well in attracting votes from the powerful Huang Fuhsing military veterans group, however, and they are a force to be reckoned with. As vice chairman he also would have had ample opportunity to meet and build relationships with key people in the party nationwide.
Full analysis, including what the winner means for the party: