By: Justin Kwan – justin.kwan [at] alumni.ubc.ca
In one of Taiwan’s latest opinion polls, Kuomintang (KMT) Presidential Candidate Eric Chu is projected to only have 20% of national support, a distant second place for a party that has traditionally dominated Taiwan’s political scene. While the party’s chances of winning the upcoming January election look slim, the KMT must restore its trust among voters, if not for victory in 2016, at least for subsequent elections.
First, the party must repair its image amongst younger voters. At the local level, the KMT has attempted to recruit younger electoral candidates in an attempt to revitalize the party’s image. However, the widespread perception of it being an older traditional party from wealthy political families still causes scepticism. The 2014 Sunflower movement has also reinforced the sentiment amongst youth that the KMT lacks the capability to represent their interests.
Second, the KMT must reduce internal party factionalism. Last month, the party replaced Presidential Candidate Hung Hsiu-chu, after she registered historically low popularity ratings due to her strong pro-China policies. However, the forceful decision by the KMT to vote out Hung also appeared to the public as highly undemocratic in nature.
The problem for the KMT is its inability to convince the public that it is a trustworthy and transparent entity. Under Chu’s leadership, the party has campaigned under the slogan “One Taiwan: Taiwan is strength” (One Taiwan:台灣就是力量). While the “One Taiwan” campaign is embedded in the idea that the KMT is “bringing everyone together regardless of where they are from, their social status or wealth,” the division within the party, the replacement of Hung, and the inability to connect with younger voters is far removed from the united Taiwan that Chu purports to promote.
The KMT knows that in this election, its best strategy is to try to hold on to as many legislative seats as possible. If the party can restore public trust and maintain internal party unity, rather than implement more vote-buying tactics, then it may convince voters that the party actually has a real long-term vision for Taiwan to make it a viable party for future elections.
Justin Kwan is a Master of Arts Candidate in Asia Pacific Policy Studies at the University of British Columbia. His research examines national identity in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Follow him on Twitter or visit his webpage.
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- Kevin G. Brown and Kevin Scott, “China-Taiwan Relations: KMT Disarray Shapes Campaign,” Comparative Connections A Triannual E-Journal on East Asian Bilateral Relations, 77-86 (September, 2015).
- New Taiwan Peace Foundation and Taiwan Brain Trust, “2015 Taiwan Brain Trust Trend Survey,” Taipei (November 2015).
- Associated Foreign Press (AFP), “KMT’s Hung Hsiu-chu refuses to quit Taiwan presidential race as rumours of ouster swirl,” The Straits Times, October 6, 2015.
- Timothy Ka-Ying Wong, Hsin-Huang Michael Hsiao and Po-San Wan, “Comparing Political Trust in Hong Kong and Taiwan: Levels, Determinants, and Implications” in Japanese Journal of Political Science Vol 10 (2), 147-174, (August 2009).
- Jean-Pierre Cabestan and Jacques deLisle, “Political Changes in Taiwan under Ma Ying-jeou: Partisan conflict, policy choices, external constraints and security challenges” (New York: Routledge), 2014.
This memo is the second in a two part series about Taiwan’s 2016 Presidential Election. View part one, Memo #353: Tsai Ing-wen’s Race to the Finish.
See our other memos on Taiwan.