Defeated Kuomintang still has a crucial role to play as the opposition party in Taiwan

The Democratic Progressive Party may have seized power on island, but it is the KMT that can ensure stable cross-strait relations with mainland China

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 April, 2016, 1:13am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 April, 2016, 1:13am

Taiwan’s Kuomintang may have been defeated in presidential and legislative elections, but it has an important role in keeping relations with the mainland stable and peaceful. Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party take the leadership on May 20 with their position towards Beijing ambiguous, despite the proven worth of cross-strait ties to the island. Ensuring there is at least the promised status quo requires a strong opposition and the KMT has to rebuild support among voters to ensure it can fill that position. Newly elected chairman and ousted presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu can help pick up the pieces, although the future lies in a representative who is more in touch with the thinking of younger generations.

Taiwan’s ousted presidential nominee Hung Hsiu-chu elected as Kuomintang’s first woman leader

The party’s opting for Hung after her prematurely terminated attempt to run for president seems an odd choice. Originally chosen to take on Tsai, she was dropped in favour of chairman Eric Chu when opinion polls made clear she had no chance of success. Chu’s loss and subsequent resignation left a vacancy and Hung has won a vote and will stay in the post until her term ends in July next year. In the absence of a better candidate, she is the most suitable person for the job.

A string of electoral defeats has left the KMT soul-searching. Outgoing leader Ma Ying-jeou strengthened trade and investment links with the mainland and held groundbreaking talks with President Xi Jinping (習近平) in Singapore two months ahead of January’s elections. Voters were not impressed, though, opting instead for the appeal of Tsai and the DPP. That was not surprising, given how Ma’s policies failed to halt a slide in economic growth and stem rising unemployment, especially among the young.

The DPP, under disgraced former leader Chen Shui-bian, created instability by embracing a pro-independence stance. Tsai has not taken such a position, but there needs to be a political check to prevent any such provocation. While reinventing itself, the KMT has to keep its rival from straying while continuing to promote closer mainland ties.