The Fight Over KMT Party Chairmanship

by Brian Hioe and Tumin

Photo Credit: CNA and UDN

FACTIONAL CONFLICT continues within the KMT, with the struggle for party chairmanship. In a surprise turn, we now see two women struggling for chairmanship, namely Huang Min-Hui and Hung Hsiu-Chu. Hung is known as the controversial presidential candidate that was replaced by Eric Chu in the middle of her run for presidency. Huang is not known for anything except for serving as mayor of Chiayi from 2005 to 2014.

After Eric Chu resigned as chairman of the KMT following his loss to Tsai Ing-Wen in 2016 presidential elections, Hung Hsiu-Chu, acting as a wildcard as always, was the first to throw her hat into the ring in announcing that she would run for party chairmanship. However, it was expected that one of the party stalwarts would step in. Wu Den-Yih, Jason Hu, Wang Jinpyng, and Hau Lung-bin were names floated, with Hau seeming to be a clear frontrunner.  

Apart from the fact that as the leader of the Taiwanese faction of the KMT, Wang Jinpyng would never be allowed to approach chairmanship of the party, none of these candidates floated were perfect candidates with a clean record. All of them had been in some form marred by political scandal in the past.

Hau emerged as a frontrunner primarily of his family background, as the son of Hau Pei-tsun, which meant that he would command the loyalty of the pro-China Old Soldier faction of the KMT. But Hau’s record was marred that he had lost what should have been an easy victory for him in 2016 legislative elections, the Keelung district legislative elections. Speculations were that Chu’s running mate Jennifer Wang’s scandal about speculation on military housing have hit Hau hard due to his entrenched family background with the military, as well as his father’s unhelpful remarks by rallying for the New Party, calling them the “genuine” KMT.

Yet it was unexpected nonetheless that Hau would withdraw in favor of Huang Min-Hui, meaning that the two candidates for KMT party chairman are Huang and Hung Hsiu-Chu. Huang is the current acting chairman of the KMT after Chu’s withdrawal, but it appears that Hau’s withdrawal marks the elevation of an individual who was largely unknown beforehand to the public spotlight. This is vaguely reminiscent of Hung’s own rise to prominence as presidential candidate of the KMT, a series of events which came about because of a power vacuum within the KMT in which neither Wang Jinpyng nor Eric Chu were willing to disrupt the status quo of the party in asserting themselves as a presidential candidate. Hung is leading by a large margin of 39% ahead of Huang in a recent poll conducted by TVBS earlier this month, but there are still many disgruntled within the party in regards to leaving party leadership to two women.

Why would Hau withdraw? This remains unknown. There is some speculation he was talked out of running by Wang Jinpyng. However, Huang has called for party unity as well as the need for party reform. Seeing as some members of the KMT have declared that they would leave if as polarizing a figure as Hung Hsiu-Chu became party chairman, due to her ideological conviction inclining towards the New Party, Huang has cited her desire to keep the party together as a reason for running when she originally had no desire to do so. Huang has also called for reform, citing the younger voices within the KMT who as of late have been voice the need for reform. Some view Huang as potentially being able to localize the KMT, which is indeed the first step towards reform if needed. It can also be claimed validly that the KMT failure to reform in this direction resulted in the humiliating defeat it faced on January 16, during legislative and presidential elections.

Does the match-up of Huang versus Hung simply reflect the fundamental split within the KMT between those who urge staying the course and those who call attention to need for the localization? This would be an old division within the KMT, whether between the Taiwanese faction and the Mainlander faction, or other more localized factions and more pro-China factions.

But this rift may be an existential one within the KMT. Some have pointed out that this may be one of the least “KMT” chairmanship races ever, for many have labeled this race as New Partification vs localization (新黨化對上本土化), where New Partification stands for dissolving the KMT into the New Party. Yet, despite that Hung is infamously known for her radical pro-China views, both candidate seem to want claim to be the most “local” one, with Hung strangely claiming to be older and hence, more Taiwanese. If Hung’s strident pro-China views are part of her definition of being Taiwanese, then the comfortable margin Hung is leading by goes to show how the KMT still fails to reflect upon its loss in the recent election.

Brian Hioe was one of the founding editors of New Bloom, a freelance writer on social movements and politics, and an occasional translator. A New York native and Taiwanese-American, he has an MA in East Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University and graduated from New York University with majors in History, East Asian Studies, and English Literature.

90’s baby, graduated with an unpromising degree of political science and economics from what Taiwanese called a “well-known” institution from America. Have wrote for several outlets and served in several election campaigns, always looking for interesting and mundane things to do simultaneously to affirm her ambivalence towards politics.

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