The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has spent the past week dealing with its severe setback in the Nov. 29 nine-in-one elections as it seeks to regroup from the disaster and move on to a new phase by electing a new chairman by January. President Ma Ying-jeou has resigned as chairman. New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu, long seen as a rising star within the part, is now in the race. Welcome to this week’s issue of the Insider.
== KMT CRISIS MANAGEMENT
CHAIRMAN ELECTION: New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) broke his silence and announced on his Facebook page on Friday morning his intention to run in the KMT chairman election and to forgo a presidential bid in 2016. The decision would for now at least leave Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) as the KMT’s most likely candidate for 2016.
Meanwhile, Wu, who has been serving as acting chairman since Ma stepped down, has announced that the KMT chairman election will be held on Jan. 17, with aspirants invited to start submitting their applications from Dec. 21.
KMT heavyweights had been cautious in their comments about a possible chairmanship bid, with Wu reiterating that he will not enter the race while Chu gave ambiguous answers, saying he “would not evade his responsibility as a KMT member.” And that was despite more than 30 KMT lawmakers endorsing his bid! Backed by many lawmakers and confidants, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) also said he was not interested in running.
Most observers did not expect Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) or Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) to run. Hau said on Thursday that he would only participate in the race if no one intended to run, adding on Friday that he had no plan to run in the presidential election in 2016.
Second-tier politicians in the party, such as Taipei City Councilor Lee Hsin (李新) and Tainan City Councilor Lee Chuan-chiao (李全教), as well as Clara Chou (周玉蔻), a political commentator and former journalist, also said they intended to run. However, the KMT said Chou was ineligible because she’s never been a member of the Central Committee.
WANG JIN-PYNG’S MEMBERSHIP: Acting KMT Chairman Wu decided to withhold a decision on the lawsuit regarding Wang’s party membership and have the next chairman decide the matter. Wang sued the KMT after the party revoked his membership, citing his alleged involvement in improper lobbying. The KMT, under Ma’s leadership, decided to appeal the case despite a High Court ruling in Wang’s favor in a second trial. Most KMT politicians urged the party to drop the case to enhance party harmony.
FINGER-POINTING: In a post-election evaluation report that assessed the party’s humiliating defeat in the Nov. 29 elections, the KMT listed six primary reasons for the loss, including the “spill-out effect” touched off by Sean Lien’s (連勝文) miserable campaign in Taipei City and the failure of some candidates to defend their advantages — ostensibly a reference to Taichung Mayor Hu, Taoyuan Commissioner John Wu (吳志揚) and New Taipei’s Chu. The report also highlighted the party’s failure to run effective campaigns on the Internet and social media.
POLL SHOWS PESSIMISTIC OUTLOOK: Ma’s disapproval rating hit a new high at 78% (a new record in his six-year tenure) in the wake of the Nov. 29 elections, and the public is now more confident about the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) ability to manage cross-strait relations, according to a poll conducted by Taiwan Indicator Survey Research (TISR). Almost half, or 49.2%, of the respondents did not think the KMT was able to engage in necessary reforms.
== ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS
LEE CALLS FOR MA TO STEP DOWN: Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) was not his usual restrained self when talking about the president last week. Twice during that period, Lee called for Ma to resign from the presidency because of his “incompetence” and “shamelessness” in his efforts to hold on to his power.
NEW CABINET SWORN IN: Premier Mao Chih-kuo (毛治國) began his tenure on Monday and said his Cabinet would seek to understand people’s needs with humility and strive to improve communication with the public. However, Mao was immediately criticized for his decision to not make a new budget plan and not withdraw several controversial proposals, such as those on an oversight statute for cross-strait negotiations and free economic pilot zones, which lawmakers said were unconstitutional. For complete Cabinet member roster, see here.
CHEN SHUI-BIAN’S MEDICAL PAROLE: A press conference by Minister of Justice Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) about a possible medical parole for former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) on Monday was interpreted by some as President Ma’s olive branch on the lingering issue, in particular in the aftermath of the KMT’s defeat in the Nov. 29 elections and people calling for political reconciliation. However, Luo said that Ma had not given instruction on the matter and added that the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) denied that Chen’s condition meets the requirements for such a parole.
With supporters and DPP politicians renewing their pledge to seek a medical parole for the ailing Chen, his son, Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), said on Tuesday that the Chen family was to apply to the MOJ for medical parole after a latest examination showed that the former leader’s health continued to deteriorate. The Taiwan High Court on Friday rejected Chen’s application for a medical parole, saying that the MOJ, not the court, had jurisdiction on such matters.
CONFERENCE ON ROLE OF TAIWAN: International experts touched on various fronts of Taiwan politics and security issues during an International Conference on New Asian Dynamics and the Role of Taiwan, co-organized by Taiwan Brain Trust and the Project 2049 Institute on Saturday. (The conference handbook can be downloaded here.) The highlights:
William Stanton, former AIT director: The U.S. should seek active cooperation with Taiwan on trade and security, including arms sales and support for Taiwan’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) bid.
Tadashi Ikeda, former Japan representative to Taiwan: Based on a mutual bilateral security pact, Japan would support. military actions if armed conflict broke out in the Taiwan Strait perimeter.
Kurt Campbell, former assistant secretary of state: Washington will cooperate with whoever wins Taiwan’s 2016 presidential election and will not interfere with the poll.
Randy Schriver, President and CEO of Project 2049 Institute: The U.S. is urged to strengthen its military cooperation with Taiwan through a series of measures, such as support for Taiwan’s indigenous submarine production project, exchange of intelligence and inclusion of Taiwan in future military exercises.
DPP COMMENTS AND BACKLASH: According to various media reports, Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), the DPP’s Secretary-General and representative to the U.S., said during a recent visit to Washington that the party did not interpret the results of the Nov. 29 elections as a “referendum on the KMT’s cross-strait policy” and a “failure of China’s Taiwan policy” because they were local elections. Wu reportedly said that the DPP did not rule out discussing the “1992 Consensus” with Beijing if Beijing regarded it as an important issue. However, Wu added, no precondition should be placed before any bilateral talks.
The remarks drew criticism from several pro-independence groups, including the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), which argued that the 1992 Consensus never existed and that the outcome of the election reflected Taiwanese people’s concerns about Ma’s “pro-China policy.”
American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt was quoted saying that the U.S. was “good at” cooperating with Taiwan regardless of which party wins elections.
CHINESE OFFICIAL VISITING TAIWAN: Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) Chairman Chen Deming (陳德銘) arrived on Tuesday for an eight-day visit. Hundreds of protesters, mostly members from Falun Gong and the Taiwan Solidarity Union, staged a demonstration at the airport against Chen, the first senior Chinese official to visit since the nine-in-one elections.
Acknowledging the controversy over cross-strait negotiations on a services trade agreement, Chen said on Wednesday that Beijing “is hoping the deal will be completed within two years,” which appeared to be a concession on the Chinese side. However, Chen drew controversy when he “summoned” Taiwanese media executives to a breakfast meeting on Wednesday, a move that was seen as trampling Taiwan’s press freedoms.
HAU BRINGS UP JAPANIZATION … AGAIN: Former premier Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村) again brought up his controversial remarks about the “Japanization” (皇民化) of former president Lee and Taipei mayor-elect Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) during a speech at National Sun Yat-sen University on Monday, calling them descendants of “subjects of the emperor” (皇民). University students staged a protest over Hau’s comments. The nonagenarian first made the widely criticized remarks in the lead-up to the nine-in-one elections.
LEGISLATIVE BY-ELECTIONS: The Central Election Commission (CEC) said that five legislative by-elections are to be held in Taichung, Changhua County, Miaoli County, Nantou County and Pingtung County on Feb. 7 to fill vacated seats following the 9-in-1 elections.
MIAOLI BY-ELECTION: Student leader Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) announced his decision to run in the Miaoli legislative by-election as an independent on Tuesday night. The DPP now faces a dilemma: Throwing its support behind Chen, or nominating its own candidate and make the election a three-way race [Chen, a DPP candidate, and the KMT candidate.] The DPP on Wednesday said it was willing to be “flexible” in nominating a candidate for the by-elections.
CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM PROPOSAL: A total of 36 lawmakers across party lines endorsed a proposal for constitutional reform calling for a series of constitutional changes, including switching from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary system and lowering the voting age to 18.
KO BUIDLING UP TAIPEI CITY ROSTER: Taipei mayoral-elect Ko Wen-je continued to reach out to individuals from different ends of the political spectrum, hiring People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) as a chief consultant for the Taipei City Government. Ko announced his “Mini Cabinet” lineup on Friday. However, the quick pace and selection process for future city government officials — for example, the selection of the Department of Labor head via i-Voting — has earned Ko some criticism.
MOF OPPOSES TAIPEI 101 SALE: The Ministry of Finance said on Monday it opposed plans by Ting Hsin International Group (頂新國際集團) to sell its stake in Taipei Financial Center Corp (TFCC, 台北金融大樓公司), the firm that operates Taipei 101, to foreign investors. The remark came two days after Ting Hsin announced plans to sell its 37.17 percent share of TFCC to IOI Properties Group Bhd, one of Malaysia’s top land developers, for NT$25.14 billion (US$805.92 million).
TAIWAN WELCOMES US FRIGATE SALE: Ministry of National Defense (MND) spokesperson Major General David Lo (羅紹和) welcomed the passage of a bill approved by the U.S. Senate last week authorizing the sale of four Perry-class frigates (USS Taylor, USS Gary, USS Carr and USS Elrod) to Taiwan, saying that U.S. arms sales to Taiwan were necessary and important to bolster Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities. The bill cleared the House on Wednesday.
MND RELOCATION: The MND officially opened its new 19-hectare compound in Taipei’s Dazhi area on Monday after moving its offices in its old compound in downtown Taipei. The new compound is close to other military facilities such as the Navy Headquarters Building, the Air Force Headquarters Building as well as the Heng Shan Military Command Center.
NEW ‘AIRCRAFT CARRIER-KILLING’ VESSEL: The navy on Wednesday unveiled a new high-speed warship (Tuo Jiang-class). Officials said the corvette would reinforce the nation’s maritime defense capabilities and serve as a strong deterrent against enemy intrusion into Taiwanese waters.
DPP ITU ABA PROPOSAL: The DPP released a 70-page Defense Policy Blue Paper, titled Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief, on Dec. 5 which proposes establishing an “Asia-Pacific Humanitarian Assistance Platform” to promote disaster response cooperation, including building a 10,000-tonne hospital ship to provide offshore medical assistance and equipping Itu Aba (Taiping Island, 太平島) in the Spratlys (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) as a forward base for humanitarian and disaster relief missions. KMT lawmaker Lin Yu-fang (林郁方), a strong proponent of the militarization of Taiping in recent years, called the proposal “unrealistic.” (The blue paper can be downloaded here.)
PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE SECURITY OFFICIAL REPLACED: Presidential Office chief of security Huo Li-ching (霍立青), 55, was relieved from his position on Friday, allegedly due to indiscretions, inappropriate social activities, and his rumored membership in a major triad gang. Huo, who held the post of “chief aide-de-camp to the president” for only four months, was suspected of leaking details of a private conversation between Ma and First Lady Chow Mei-ching (周美青).
NEW DRONE UNVEILED: The Chungshan Institute of Science & Technology (CSIST) unveiled a small, battery-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) codenamed “Cardinal” in Taichung on Wednesday. The UAV can be launched by hand and has one-hour operational time and a range of 8km.
The Taiwan Insider is a weekly feature prepared by the Thinking Taiwan Foundation’s Chris Wang and staff members. Comments? Leads? You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.