The Kuomintang (KMT) announced its party list nominees yesterday, with quite a few surprises. If we examine the nominations closely, we can find endless flaws.

I’m not going to focus on how the list borders on a communist representation, but only on how poorly constructed it is.

A party list can be split into three categories with different purposes:

  1. Safe seats: To appease local factions, build momentum for the party, and reward people who have done favors for the party.
  2. Marginal seats: To include influential faction members and quality candidates who appeal to the voters.
  3. Promotional seats: To give new candidates more exposure.

In the recently revealed KMT party list, most of the nominees were only rewarded a seat because of political favors. Within the marginal seats, the only powerful faction member is Wong Chung-chun (翁重鈞) from the Chiayi county; and the only nominee who can appeal to voters is perhaps Hsieh Lung-jie (謝龍介), who can recite the Analects in fluent Taiwanese-Hokkien. In other words, the KMT party-list contains only about 10 to 12 safe seats.

KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), who was responsible for coming up with the list, was sure to turn the party’s safe seats into “unsafe seats.”


Photo Credit: CNA

KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義)

KMT claims the party list will help to “reposition and regain power” for the party

Although the KMT’s proportional representation list seems odd at first glance, it resembles the one from 2008. At the time, familiar KMT politicians like Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), and Chiu Yi (邱毅) were all nominated on the list. It wasn’t a controversial one because the KMT had a lead in its election campaigns.

However, public consciousness and election culture have rapidly changed in Taiwan since 2008, and the KMT realized something had to change in its nomination strategy. I personally admired the 2012 KMT party list selected by former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) — it had included legislators with various expertise such as in finance and tax, environment, labor rights, law, arts, and childcare. The KMT had scored 16 seats that year and performed incredibly well in the Legislative Yuan.

Even in 2016 when the KMT was suffering a landslide defeat, the then-KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) still selected candidates who were well-regarded in their fields, such as Jason Hsu (許毓仁), who is known for boosting Taiwanese startups, and Lin Li-chan (林麗蟬), who’s involved in immigrant issues.

Now let’s look at Wu Den-yih’s party list nominations and we can understand why even the KMT members are frustrated.

Both Jason Hsu and Lin Li-chan, who are seen as key progressive figures in the party, are excluded from the list. What’s even more ridiculous is that Wu has named himself in his own party list…as one of the safe seats more or less guaranteed a seat in the legislature. No KMT chairman in history has ever made an outrageous nomination like that.

As for the rest of the list, only a few KMT elders like Tseng Ming-chung (曾銘宗) possess some kind of expertise. Tseng, namely, is known for his background in finance. There’s an obvious absence of industry professionals who have a fresh reputation, and the KMT has abandoned all appeals to the youth.

The Taiwanese netizens who have been mocking the list are those who would not have voted for the KMT anyway. But the most cringeworthy part is, Wu must have thought the median voters are too stupid to see what’s going on.

不分區名單引反彈  吳敦義擁抱支持者落淚(1)

Photo Credit: CNA

KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih hugs his supporter who rushes to see him amid the party list controversy on November 13, 2019.

Does anyone remember why we had set up a “proportional representation” system?

When it comes to deciding their nominees, both the KMT and the Democratic Progress Party (DPP) have to evaluate the party list’s core value. It was a system meant to include professionals — who otherwise may not stand a chance in regular elections — in the legislature for better policymaking. But perhaps no one cares about the original intention of the party list system today.

In 2008, only the KMT and the DPP had surpassed the minimum threshold for party list legislative seats, snatching 88.1 percent of the total vote. But four years later, the People First Party and the Taiwan Solidarity Union had both gained party list representation. Then in 2016, the KMT and DPP only gathered 71 percent of the vote. In other words, more voters were opting for a "third party.”

Now facing even more severe competition, the two major parties should be all the more careful in their party list nominations. They should be telling voters that "We care about these issues” in order to convince the general public, instead of announcing a corrupted list without shame.

People say not to wash your dirty laundry in public, but why is the KMT revealing its godawful party list for the whole country to watch?

This article was originally published in Chinese on The News Lens Taiwan Edition.

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TNL Editor: TJ Ting, Brian Hioe (@thenewslensintl)

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