Former VP elected KMT chairman, same downward spiral?

152824eb-526d-4a94-a042-f58dd33bd176After losing both the presidency and, for the first time, control of parliament in the 2016 elections, the century-old Kuomintang today elected former Taiwan Vice-President Wu Den-yih 吳敦義 as its new chairperson. Of the 476,147 eligible party members, 58% voted, 52.2% (144k) of which voted for Wu, just past the 50% that would otherwise have triggered a runoff election between Wu and incumbent chairperson Hung Hsiu-chu, who received the second most votes (19.2%). The six candidates include Wu, Hung, former Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-pin, former health minister Steven Chan, former MP Han Kuo-yu, and former MP Tina Pan.

Traditionally considered the pro-China and pro-reunification political party, KMT has been plagued by constant infighting, lack of legislative direction, and ongoing government probe into its extensive assets around the world since the elections. With more than 90% of people in Taiwan identifying themselves as Taiwanese and a majority opposing unification, KMT’s call for economic and potential political rapprochement with the PRC have been met with skepticism, and was the main contributing factors leading to its electoral loss. It is unclear whether any of the candidates have a broader vision for Taiwan’s future and its relationship with the PRC and the US other than that of former President Ma Ying-jeou.

Kuomintang, literally the Chinese Nationalist Party, can trace its founding to Sun Yat-sen in 1894. Taiwan became a Japanese colony in 1895, while the Nationalists were heavily involved in the founding of the Republic of China in mainland China in 1912. KMT took its current name in 1919. After Sun died in 1925, KMT control fell to Chiang Kai-shek, who led the Nationalist government through the Chinese Civil War against the Communist Party of China and World War II. The KMT government took over Taiwan in 1945 after Japan surrendered, while itself retreated to Taiwan after losing the civil war in 1949. Chiang and his son Chiang Ching-kuo governed Taiwan as dictators until their respective deaths in 1975 and 1988, while KMT was the only legal political party until 1987, and remained in power until 2000.

Wu Den-yih was born in Nantou, Taiwan in 1948. He earned a B.A. in History from National Taiwan University. Wu was a journalist before entering politics. He was elected a member of Taipei City Council in 1973, Magistrate of Nantou County in 1981, Mayor of Kaohsiung in 1990, and was a three-term member of the Legislative Yuan. He was appointed Premier by President Ma Ying-jeou in the aftermath of Typhoon Morakot in 2009, and was elected Vice-President in Ma’s second term (2012-2016).

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