There have been reports recently that the Kuomintang (KMT) was going to amend its charter to eliminate a clause on corruption standards in order to clear any obstacles Ma Ying-jeou might have in his run for the party’s presidential nomination. Some Ma supporters drafted a compromise provision that would keep the party’s anti-corruption clause in place but add the proviso that “those who are being politically persecuted” would be exempt. The provision would give the KMT Central Standing Committee the right to determine who qualified for the distinction of being politically prosecuted, thus clearing the path for Ma’s presidential run.
Political persecution is a very empty term. Ma Ying-jeou has not been arrested or removed from office by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government. The corruption charges Ma does face will be handled entirely by the courts. The most the KMT could say here us that Ma is a victim of judicial persecution. The political environment in Taiwan today is very different than that in the past. Although the pan-blue camp constantly criticizes the DPP government, no one in either the blue or green camps consider the courts to be something the DPP invented. If Ma is convicted of corruption and still claims to be a victim of political persecution, then that would really be forcing the issue. It’s still too early to tell if he will be sentenced to a jail term or if he was if he would even end up serving it. That is to say he would not necessarily be a victim of anything. The fact the KMT is in such a hurry to claim Ma is being politically persecuted is a misguided move.
The corruption exempted clause is in fact a KMT weapon. The Taiwanese people have been very lenient with the KMT, with nearly fifty percent of the population still supporting the party to this day. The past “white terror” campaigns and long-term abuses under martial law carried out by the KMT should not be overlooked in this day and age of democratization. These incidents should be kept in mind despite the KMT claims that it has made significant contributions to the development of Taiwan’s economy. In fact, according to the results of many studies, the development of Taiwan’s economy had little to do with the efforts of the KMT.
The majority of the Taiwanese people have chosen to either forget or forgive these past transgressions, electing to consider the KMT a viable political force in Taiwan. The only problem that remains seems to be merely one of individual member integrity within the KMT. The corruption exempted clause is the most advantageous tool the KMT has to scrub clean any perceived image problem. This is because after democratization, it became apparent that the level of detest the Taiwanese people have for corrupt politicians skyrocketed. Using the crutch of this new corruption exempted provision allows the KMT and its supporters to take a step forward without worrying about any backlash from the DPP or outsiders concerning the party image. The fact that the party is ready today to put such a provision into its charter for the sake of one man is an insult not only to KMT members and supporters, but a slap in the face to all Taiwanese people as well.
Chang Kuo-cheng is the former director of DPP Administrative Affairs Division.