In protest of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) nomination of former Presidential Office secretary-general Chen Chu (陳菊) as Control Yuan president, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators late last month occupied the legislative chamber on the eve of an extraordinary session. The protest was seen as the party’s attempt to pull itself back together after having lost its direction in the campaign for this year’s presidential election.
Despite the KMT caucus’ claim that the protest would last for three days and three nights, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators broke into the legislative chamber within 24 hours, mocking the KMT for not being able to protest without air conditioning. Even some pro-blue camp political commentators criticized the attempt.
Strategically, the occupation was important. The KMT hoped to use this protest over the Dragon Boat Festival holiday to reverse its unfavorable situation, while KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) used his legislative role to supervise the scene, as he wanted to use this key event to establish his authority.
The KMT should have emphasized that as Tsai has pledged to downsize the nation’s five-branch system to a three-branch system by abolishing the Examination Yuan and the Control Yuan through a constitutional amendment, it is unnecessary to nominate a Control Yuan president or members, or at the very least it is unnecessary to fill all its vacancies.
The party should have also urged the DPP to allow its lawmakers to vote on the nomination freely without exercising party discipline, and it should have suggested that Tsai replace Chen with lawyer Yu Mei-nu (尤美女).
Unfortunately, not only did the KMT not sense the strategic significance of the protest and hold on to the end, it also lost its power to manipulate the political agenda. Why then should Taiwanese care about the party’s survival?
Chiang is the first KMT chairman after former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) who is friendly to the US and Japan as well as vigilant against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), so he is unlikely to curry favor with Beijing.
Taiwan completed its autonomy in several stages: direct presidential elections, three government transitions, and the KMT’s transformation into a Taiwan-focused party upholding universal values, a key indicator of Taiwan’s democratic consolidation.
Once Taiwan’s major political parties become Taiwan-centered, any elected president would be pro-Taiwan and voters could stop worrying about a five-star flag flying over the Presidential Office Building.
A friend recalled many years ago how a leader of the KMT’s pro-Taiwan camp lobbied then-president and party chairman Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) to lift a ban on new political parties. He pointed out that if Taiwan had no other parties than the KMT, Taiwanese would turn to the CCP.
However, if other pro-local parties were available, they could then replace the KMT if it lost public support.
This is the logic that protects Taiwan and does not promote party interests.
Asian governments often end up with one-party rule, like the CCP, or a dominant party, such as Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party. The former inevitably leads to corruption, and the latter loses vitality.
Although the DPP has regained power, the worry is that the lack of a challenge from a strong political rival would cause the dominant party to decline year by year, and voters would pay the price.
At this critical moment of the KMT’s transformation, perhaps those who truly care about protecting the nation should encourage the party to focus harder on Taiwan.
HoonTing is a political commentator.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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