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KMT's 'fighting blue' faction caused its referendum rout: Scholar

Tunghai University professor says party needs to resist radicalization to avoid deeper crisis

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KMT leaders out campaigning ahead of the referendum. 

KMT leaders out campaigning ahead of the referendum.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Tunghai University political science professor Shen Yu-cheng (沈有忠) says the rise of the “fighting blue” faction of the Kuomintang (KMT) and the opposition party’s slide toward more extreme positions over the past year is what caused it to lose on all four questions of the referendum Saturday (Dec. 18).

The questions, all proposed by the KMT, tried to reverse key Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) policies on issues relating to energy, environment, food safety, and trade. Yet none of the proposals received the minimum 4.95 million “yes” votes to pass, with “no” votes winning out in each.

Responding to the serious setback, KMT Legislator Lin Wei-zhou (林為洲) — who led the campaign to ban pork imports containing ractopamine — announced his resignation as deputy party secretary. However, KMT supporters on social media attacked both New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) — who has been conspicuously quiet on the referendum — and party Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) for his weak leadership, according to FormosaTV News.

Shen says the KMT has been becoming more extreme over the past year. He cites Hou as an example, saying he has been encircled by the party for being a moderate.

“The atmosphere within the entire Kuomintang party has become more radicalized, moving toward the extreme end of the spectrum,” he says. He says the party must resist the most hawkish instincts of its “fighting blue” faction (戰鬥藍), or else it may face a deeper crisis further down the line.

Shen believes there will be an internal power struggle within the party for some time. Some will demand Chu step down as chairperson, while others will want Hou to leave the party, he says.

The party may be gripped by a furious storm of internal strife which could pull it in different directions and divide it further. This could cause it to be squarely defeated in next year’s local elections, Shen warns.

The results of the upcoming by-election in Taichung’s second constituency on Jan. 9 will give a sense of which way the winds are blowing in the new year, he says, adding that if the result is similar to that of the referendum, the DPP will have thoroughly reversed the setbacks it suffered in 2018 and the KMT will be in dire straits.