KMT chairman, party leaders step down after election defeat

Kuomintang candidate Han Kuo-yu, surrounded by his family and party members, bowing to supporters at a rally in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, last Saturday. He received about 39 per cent of the votes. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
Kuomintang candidate Han Kuo-yu, surrounded by his family and party members, bowing to supporters at a rally in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, last Saturday. He received about 39 per cent of the votes. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

TAIPEI • Kuomintang (KMT) chairman Wu Den-yih and four executive officials resigned yesterday to take responsibility for the party's major loss in Taiwan's recent elections.

At the party's weekly Central Standing Committee meeting, Mr Wu said he was stepping down to accept responsibility for failing to lead the party to victory at the polls.

"In the past 20 years, the KMT has suffered several losses, but if we remain united in failure... we will find the opportunity to be in power again," he added.

The party also addressed its election flop in a seven-point report on the reasons for its defeat.

President Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) swept to a second four-year term last Saturday with 57 per cent or 8.17 million votes, almost 20 percentage points more than KMT's Mr Han Kuo-yu, who won about 39 per cent or 5.52 million votes.

While the DPP secured more than 50 per cent of legislature seats last Saturday, compared with the KMT's 33.6 per cent, it lost seven seats - replaced by representatives from newer, smaller parties such as the New Power Party, Taiwan People's Party and Taiwan Statebuilding Party.

The KMT yesterday cited how the ruling DPP had been able to capitalise on the unease among Taiwanese over the idea of China's "one country, two systems" policy in Hong Kong being imposed on Taiwan.

Protests in Hong Kong, triggered by a now-withdrawn Bill to allow extraditions to mainland China, have morphed into a wider movement for democratic freedoms and against China's tightening control over Hong Kong, which Beijing has denied.

The KMT report also touched on how the party had failed to appeal to younger Taiwanese, whose votes have helped the DPP at the ballot box.

Younger KMT members have called for a large-scale reform in the past week. They are demanding that Mr Wu and his crew of older, top-ranking officials all step down and give the younger members a shot at making some much-needed changes to the party's many outdated policies.

These include its China policy that stands by the "1992 Consensus", which states there is only "one China" but allows for differing interpretations on which entity is China's legitimate governing body.

 
 
 

While Mr Wu addressed senior members in the meeting, a group of younger KMT members held signs and protested in the hallway, calling for the Central Standing Committee to also apologise and shoulder the responsibility along with Mr Wu.

The group was led by former KMT Youth League leader Lin Chia-hsing, who has been calling for radical KMT reforms as early as 2016.

At an election post-mortem held on Sunday, Hoover Institute's Taiwan Project adviser Kharis Templeman said the KMT faces many daunting challenges, the chief of which is that people under age 40 are unwilling to vote for it.

"These people will be the main voting force in the future and their partisan attachments will solidify as they vote regularly and get older," he said.

"You need younger candidates to speak the language of the younger voters. The KMT has a few… but some were kept off the party list - this looks like a step backwards for them," said Mr Templeman, who suggested the new KMT chairman think about this.

KMT Central Standing Committee member Lin Rong-te has been selected as interim chairman by the party's top decision-making body.

A KMT official was quoted by Central News Agency as saying that a party election is likely to be held on March 7.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2020, with the headline 'KMT chairman, party leaders step down after election defeat'. Print Edition | Subscribe