OPINION: Ma Ying-jeou and Wang Jin-pyng Revive KMT 'September Struggle'

OPINION: Ma Ying-jeou and Wang Jin-pyng Revive KMT 'September Struggle'
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Are the two KMT titans rehashing their epic Sep. 2013 political struggle?

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By Brian Hioe

The “September Political Struggle” (九月政爭) of 2013 between former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and former majority speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) of the Kuomintang (KMT) is again back in the news. Wang and Ma are publicly trading barbs after the release of a new book by Ma detailing his presidential administration and defending past actions. The reemergence of these tensions perhaps points to major splits within the KMT.

The “September Political Struggle” took place following accusations that then-Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) minority whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) had attempted to seek help from Wang Jin-pyng to clear him of charges of illegal lobbying. This information emerged because Ker’s phone was being wiretapped by the Special Investigation Division as part of investigations into political corruption by Taiwanese law enforcement. But this wiretapping subsequently became the object of public controversy when Ma was seen as wiretapping political opponents in order to undermine them.

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Credit: Reuters / TPG
Ma Ying-jeou: Back with a vengeance?

In particular, Ma shared information about what should have been a confidential investigation with then-Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) and attempted to use this information to get Wang removed from his position as majority speaker of the KMT and expelled from the party.

Ma and Wang are political rivals within the KMT. Wang is the leader of the comparatively pro-localization “Taiwanese faction” of the KMT, while Ma is the leader of the KMT’s pro-China “Mainlander faction.”

While charges were faced by Wang, these charges were later dropped. Prosecutor-general Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘), who headed the investigation, was given a 15-month jail term commutable to a fine for illegal wiretapping.

In his new book, Ma stated for the first time publicly that he offered a peace agreement to Wang in the course of the conflict. When questioned by reporters, Wang stated that although he had not read the book, this did take place and that Wang rejected the deal, because the wording of the deal would have meant admitting guilt to charges of corruption.

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Credit: Alan Wu / CC BY 2.0
Is Wang Jin-pyng jockeying for position within the KMT ahead of a 2020 presidential run?

Ma also accused Wang of allowing for the outbreak of the 2014 Sunflower Movement with his actions, seeing as the events of the September Political Struggle were a large contributing factor to the month-long occupation of the Taiwanese Legislative Yuan which took place in March 2014. Namely, as part of his split with Ma, Wang did not order police to remove student occupiers from the Legislative Yuan during the course of the movement. Wang was also seen as sympathetic to the student’s demands, again, given that the “Taiwanese faction” of the KMT is comparatively more pro-localization than Ma’s starkly pro-unification “Mainlander faction.”

Indeed, the KMT has long been wary of Wang, one of the few benshengren (本省人) – people who were in Taiwan prior to World War II – with a powerful position within the KMT. Fears were that he would prove a turncoat and go on to become a second Lee Teng-hui (李登輝). Significantly, those who called for reform within the party after the outbreak of the Sunflower Movement in 2014 were accused of being Wang’s lackeys and dismissed as such.

But what does it mean for political splits dating to 2013 to reemerge within the KMT at this juncture? Namely, given the weakness of the KMT’s current chair, Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), Ma has had to reemerge from retirement to once again take up a prominence leadership position within the party. As such, Ma stumped for a number of KMT candidates in the 2018 elections and has made a number of public statements which indicate that he once again commands a large voice within the party. This has sometimes been referred to as Ma’s return to politics.

吳敦義
Credit: Loganyi911 / CC BY-SA 4.0
KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih has himself been the subject of presidential speculation.

At the same time, while Wang has seemed to be relatively quiet in past years, Wang made a number of unusual public appearances which seem to suggest that Wang had a hand in engineering the KMT’s electoral successes in Taichung, Kaohsiung, and New Taipei, with the mayoral victories of Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕), Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) and Hou You-yi (侯友宜), respectively. Wang may have made a quiet comeback in his own way.

With the return of both Ma and Wang, does this mean that old rivalries are still alive within the KMT and continue to be a powerful dynamic driving the party’s current actions? That is very likely and a way in which the specter of the Ma administration, and its accompanying political turmoil, still hang over Taiwanese politics in the present.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The News Lens.

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The News Lens has been authorized to repost this article. The original post was published on New Bloom here.

Editor: Nick Aspinwall (@Nick1Aspinwall)

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