Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) has had a tough time for most of the months since he was elected in late September last year.
Since Taiwanese rejected the KMT’s arguments in the four referendums last month, the party had been campaigning hard for another two elections on Sunday: a legislative by-election in Taichung’s second electoral district and a recall vote against independent Legislator Freddie Lim (林昶佐) in his constituency in Taipei’s Zhongzheng (中正) and Wanhua (萬華) districts.
The party was defeated in both.
As for his successes, Chu could point to the recall of former Taiwan Statebuilding Party legislator Chen Po-wei (陳柏惟) in October last year — a success that was short-lived, as the KMT’s candidate lost in Sunday’s election to replace him.
All in all, it was a complete whitewash for the KMT.
Chu has come under fire from all quarters within his party, and not without reason. Over the past few months, he has been stirring up conflict between the KMT and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), and pursuing a campaign of opposition for opposition’s sake.
In the past, Chu was seen as being close to Washington, and conversations between him and US officials in Taiwan were among US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks.
Chu is fully aware of the importance of Taiwan-US relations, and yet he went against his own better judgement to secure political benefit for himself, stirring up public sentiment against the importation of US pork containing traces of ractopamine.
However, the public saw through his game, and was unwilling to sacrifice trade and friendly ties with the US, giving him a slap in the face.
As a former Taoyuan County councilor, Chu understands the situation along the coast of Datan Borough (大潭) in Taoyuan’s Guanyin District (觀音). He knows that the area has long been highly developed and that there is little reason to argue for its ecological purity.
Despite this, he attempted to impede gas supply to the Datan Power Plant, risking a nationwide energy crisis that would have frustrated the government’s energy policy, and opposed the construction of a proposed third liquefied natural gas terminal off the district.
Again, Taiwanese knew exactly what he was up to: Chu and the KMT were trying to damage Taiwan, and voters did not want to have anything to do with their plan.
Buoyed on by his “victory” in bringing down Chen, which earned him brownie points within the party, he went after Lim.
However, whether or not the KMT had succeeded in having Lim recalled, it would not have affected the DPP’s legislative majority, and yet Chu mustered his forces.
It was but an appeal to the KMT’s base, with zero effects on legislative dynamics or party strategy.
Again, voters were not fooled, and they rebuffed Chu. The majority in Zhongzheng and Wanhua districts were not willing to rise to his bait, and turnout for Lim’s recall failed to reach the required threshold.
In Taichung, the story was different: Voters turned out in droves, with a participation rate of almost 60 percent, to ensure that the KMT’s candidate did not return to the legislature.
In Sunday’s elections, voters in Taipei and Taichung sent the KMT a clear message: Could you please stop making a nuisance of yourself?
In a democracy, the role of the opposition is to oversee the government and underperforming local elected officials to ensure that the nation becomes stronger; it is not to oppose everything the government does, even if doing so damages the country, to make things difficult for it.
It is not surprising that Taiwanese are not willing to support an opposition party that behaves in this way.
The KMT should examine these six major defeats and reflect on what it has been doing.
Finally, the defeat of former KMT legislator Yen Kuan-heng (顏寬恒), the party’s candidate in Taichung’s second electoral district, which spans the Yen family’s traditional stronghold of Shalu District (沙鹿), heralds the gradual decline in traditional local politics and the vote captains system.
This should also serve as a warning for the DPP, which has sought to establish its own political networks in areas it has governed for long periods.
The public is turning its back on the old way of doing things, and it will not be long before such methods of securing votes will be left behind.
Both parties must remember that the goal of politics is to serve the public and promote the long-term development of the nation.
Tommy Lin is a physician and president of the Formosa Republican Association.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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