KMT’s Chu to step down as party leader

By Yuan-Ming Chiao ,The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Kuomintang’s (KMT) freshly defeated presidential candidate Eric Chu emphasized Sunday that the lion’s share of responsibility for the party’s dismal national election performance lay with him and that he plans to step down from the chairmanship later today. “I will take the greatest responsibility (for the loss); everybody please put the blame onto me,” he said to party supporters and volunteers at election headquarters, Sunday. Chu first announced his resignation just hours after polling closed on Saturday with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ahead with an insurmountable lead. Chu told party staff and supporters that the KMT needed a new beginning and to “stand with the younger generation” to cultivate young talent.

Some party staff expressed fears that a hollowing out of the party would begin after Chu steps down today. Others are afraid that political housecleaning would see multiple factions at each other’s throats not unlike the splits that occurred following its national election defeat in 2000. When asked by reporters whether the KMT would cooperate with other pan-blue parties (The New Party and the People First Party) in the future, Chu stated that past differences that existed among them needed to be discussed. “Even though I am no longer party chairman, I will put in my utmost to consolidate everybody’s support and rebuild solidarity,” he added.

Leadership Vacuum The party announced through its Facebook page that an ad hoc Central Standing Committee meeting would be held today to formalize Chu’s resignation as party leader.

It remains uncertain who will take the temporary reigns of the chairmanship for the demoralized party. New party leaders have been elected by registered party members in recent years. Political analysts familiar with the party consider outgoing Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) as a likely choice as a transitional party chairman. President Ma Ying-jeou, who also served as party leader until another election setback in 2014, has reportedly privately expressed unwillingness to take the helm for the party at this time.

Caucus Leader Uncertain The party’s defeat and current leadership restructuring will also delay considerations over its legislative leader. The KMT lost 29 seats in legislative elections on Saturday, which will more than certainly lead to the end of Wang Jin-pyng’s (王金平) position as speaker, a post he has held since 1999. Wang will again enter as a lawmaker by means of the party’s legislator-at-large list (in which he was placed in the first position). Lawmakers who survived the electoral purge suggested yesterday that conflicting messages within the internal structure of the party meant they would need to fend for themselves for the time being until the dust settles over the party’s leadership maneuverings.