KMT needs fundamental reforms following Kaohsiung defeat: scholars

08/16/2020 06:04 PM
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KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang (right) leaves the campaign headquarters after the party
KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang (right) leaves the campaign headquarters after the party's mayoral candidate Li Mei-jhen (in pink) conceded defeat. CNA photo Aug. 15, 2020

Taipei, Aug. 16 (CNA) The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) needs fundamental reforms, including readjustment of its China policies, following its crushing defeat in Saturday's Kaohsiung mayoral by-election, scholars said Sunday.

Although the KMT has launched a previous round of reforms under the new chairmanship of Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) since March, after the party suffered sizable defeats in Jan. 11 presidential and legislative elections, there has been little substantial change to the party itself, said Kuo Yu-jen (郭育仁), a professor at National Sun Yat-sen University's Institute of China and Asia-Pacific Studies.

"The KMT needs a bottoms-up revolution," Kuo said at a seminar organized by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to discuss the post-by-election political outlook in the country.

Echoing Kuo's view, Yu Ching-hsin (游清鑫), a research fellow at National Chengchi University's Election Study Center, said at the same seminar that a change of leadership in the KMT will not be enough to reform the century-old political party.

The party needs to rebuild its cross-Taiwan Strait policy rhetoric and come up with a new strategy for dealing with the trilateral relations between Taiwan, China and the United States, while solidifying its core supporters, Yu added.

The two scholars' comments were made a day after the KMT's mayoral candidate, Li Mei-jhen (李眉蓁) suffered a defeat by a large margin to Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) of the DPP in Saturday's by-election.

Chen was the big favorite to win the race in the DPP-leaning city and garnered 671,804 votes, or 70.03 percent of the total, topping Li and the Taiwan People's Party's (TPP's) Wu Yi-jheng (吳益政), who won 25.90 percent and 4.06 percent of the vote, respectively.

The by-election was held after a recall vote in early June to remove the KMT's Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), who was elected in November 2018, ending the DPP's 20-year hold on the southern city.

Chen will serve out the remainder of Han's term, which ends in December 2022.

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (right) campaigns for the Taiwan People
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (right) campaigns for the Taiwan People's Party candidate Wu Yi-jheng (left) in Kaohsiung. CNA photo Aug. 14, 2020

Commenting on the election results, Kuo said Wu gaining of only 4 percent of total vote showed that the campaign strategy of the party founded by Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) during the by- election did not work well.

The party has no stars other than Ko himself, Kuo said.

The "one-man party" will face a major crisis in its future development, especially after Ko steps down from his mayoral seat in 2022, Kuo added.

The DPP, however, is not without its own challenges ahead, according to Yu.

The ruling party needs to come up with a strategy to maintain its high popularity in the post-COVID-19 era and President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) needs to find ways to continue to exercise her influence instead of becoming a "lame duck president" in her second term, Yu added.

President Tsai Ing-wen campaigns for Chen Chi-mai on the election day
President Tsai Ing-wen campaigns for Chen Chi-mai on the election day's eve. CNA photo Aug. 14, 2020

Meanwhile, looking to the 2022 local government elections, Kuo said the DPP is facing challenges as well, especially in northern Taoyuan and Hsinchu cities that are currently governed by the DPP.

Both DPP mayors -- Cheng Wen-Tsan (鄭文燦) and Lin Chih-chien (林智堅) -- will be leaving offices after serving two terms. But so far, the DPP has not come up with any more qualified successors to take over their posts in the 2022 elections in the two cities that have been long considered KMT strongholds, he said.

Likewise, the KMT, which currently governs Yunlin and Changhua counties, will face similar challenges in 2022 in the two counties, which were DPP strongholds for decades, once the two KMT magistrates -- Chang Li-shan (張麗善) and Wang Hui-mei (王惠美) -- complete their first four-year-terms, Kuo said, given the KMT's sizable defeat in the Kaohsiung by-election.

In related news, the Central Election Commission (CEC) will officially announce Chen's election and issue with a certificate on Aug. 21.

Chen is scheduled to take office as Kaohsiung mayor within 10 days of the announcement in accordance with local laws, meaning that he could assume his official duties before the end of the month.

The city government has been headed by acting mayor Yang Ming-chou (楊明州) since Han's recall.

(By Yeh Su-ping, Hou Wen-ting, Wang Shu-fen and Joseph Yeh)

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