Good things come in threes, so to follow my previous two posts, here’s a look at the relationship between KMT legislators and their own party and legislative caucus. The decision by the caucus to force all the legislators to vote the same way in a recent vote has not only highlighted a conflict with KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou, but also with some legislators:
The KMT caucus showed deep divisions recently during the decision-making process surrounding the confirmation of Hsieh Wen-ding (謝文定), the president’s nomination for state public prosecutor-general.
According to the Chinese-language media, Hsu [Hsu Shu-po (許舒博)] sent out invitations yesterday calling on his fellow legislators from southern Taiwan to “draw on their collective wisdom to find a correct direction for the party,” because the KMT needs to examine itself so the party can return to the middle course and grow stronger.
(Hat tip to The foreigner in Formosa for noticing this – although I’m a bit worried about how he makes the logical jump from sexy women to middle-aged KMT legislators …)
This group of 28 KMT Legislators met on Monday night to discuss their greivances – ostensibly about the direction of the KMT under Ma. But the most impressive part of the meeting was the huge number of internal contradictions it raised:
- It was billed as a “Youth Forum” – and yet they invited the 65 year-old Wang Jin-pyng, but didn’t invite 55 year-old Ma Ying-jeou.
- It was also a meeting of members from Southern Taiwan – so they met in Taipei (in the North)
- A major complaint coming out of it was that Ma Ying-jeou doesn’t talk to them enough … and yet they didn’t invite Ma.
- The event which caused this meeting (the vote on Hsieh Wen-ding) is one where they actually agree with Ma (but disagree with their own legislative caucus) – and yet they were complaining about Ma.
- If their complaints were about the legislative caucus, why was the man who holds more sway over the caucus than anyone else (Wang Jin-pyng) involved in the meeting?
- (There’s another big contradiction below too if you keep reading)
So, what do we make of it all? Well, a clue is in this China Post article:
The legislators in attendance, almost all of them Wang’s supporters, voiced their common angst that Ma’s new plan to list at-large parliamentarians would seriously compromise their chance of reelection.
Though only four of the 28 are members at large, all lawmakers at the Monday night meeting are convinced that many of them may be ruled out of the nomination for the 2007 election.
In other words: Self-interest. Are they really worried about the obstructionist attitude of the KMT? Debatable – after all they’ve all been active participants in that attitude for the last several years. Are they worried about losing their jobs? You bet.
The 2007 Legislative elections
The next round of legislative elections are over 18 months away, but what we’re seeing here are the early rumblings in the fight for KMT selections. The biggest issue is that the number of legislators is being halved – which means that every legislator knows he’s in real danger of being kicked out of his current (very cushy) job. It’s not a coincidence that the coordinator of this meeting (Hsu Shu-po) stood for election in the recent local elections in a failed attempt to find a life after the legislature.
Another big issue for the legislators at this meeting was that they had backed a loser – as Wang Jin-pyng supporters, their position became much more precarious when Wang lost the KMT chairmans election. If the choice for legislator in a particular district comes down to a battle between a Ma supporter and a Wang supporter, it’s obvious who has the upper hand.
The third issue is the change to the rules for selecting at-large legislators.
According to existing party rules, a nine-member review committee prepares a list of “recommended” legislator-at-large candidates that is then put to a vote by the 210-member Central Committee.
KMT Legislator Hsu Shu-po, who is regarded as a member of pro-Ma faction, raised the proposal and gained the backing of 20 KMT legislators who oppose the existing system.
According to the proposal, 1,600 representatives and some 14,000 KMT volunteers will be eligible to cast votes to decide the 34 legislator-at-large candidates and how they are ranked on the slate, Liao said.
Now either this news report is flat-out wrong or the organiser of this recent anti-Ma meeting (at which everyone bitched about the new rules for selection) is also the man behind the new selection scheme – and also a Ma supporter. I’m inclined to believe eTaiwanNews has just got this wrong. Nevertheless, these legislators are complaining that instead of 9 senior KMT members doing the selection, we now have a democratic process. Yet another contradiction: Anti-Ma legislators complaining about the KMT leadership’s power being watered down. Because:
In primaries, those who have a large war chest will win, one Kuomintang stalwart said yesterday. “That’s unfair,” he went on.
In other words: “The KMT is too corrupt for democracy.” An interesting admission.
What happens next?
Well, we clearly have a group of dissatisfied legislators. But the big question is “What will (or can) they do?” Michael Turton has also written on this and thinks it adds up to a crisis for the KMT, but I’m not convinced. Although there are plenty of people who dislike Ma high up in the KMT, there’s not a lot they can do about it. Ma is secure in his job – it’s the legislators who aren’t secure in theirs.
There is certain to be plenty of infighting over the next months, and there will be a large number of very dissatisfied ex-legislators when the next election comes around. But I’d put money on there being a higher proportion of pro-Ma legislators by the end of it – whether those legislators are considered moderate or extremists will be a whole separate issue.
P.S. Completely unrelated, but the man who chaired this recent meeting, Hsu Shu-po, is the man who informed the world that Lien Chan’s reaction to losing the 2004 presidential election included a rant about the people of Yunlin who had apparently “stripped me of everything, even my underwear”. I’ve always thought that Hsu did a great public service bringing that quote (and the associated mental image) out into the open.