The KMT is currently emphasizing corruption. It always shocks me to realize that they think they own the corruption issue.
Now, I must admit that I was not in Taiwan for most of the Chen administration, so I did not get the full psychological impact of DPP corruption during that era. Instead, my formative experiences came in the 1990s, when the KMT was in power. The connection peaked in 1997 with the Pai Hsiao-yan 白曉燕 case, leading to a massive demonstration against Black and Gold politics and eventually the resignation of Premier Vincent Siew.
From my vantage point, as a person who studies electoral politics, there is no question which party is more corrupt. The overwhelming majority of vote buying is conducted by KMT candidates or independent politicians who cooperate closely with the KMT. Almost all of the organized crime figures who enter elective politics work on the blue side of the divide. The KMT organizationally-based campaign style depends on lots of cash, while the DPP’s more issue-oriented style is relatively cheaper. The KMT has also been much quicker to forgive corruption, as long as the person in question could win the election.
Chen’s government certainly was guilty of some corruption, but even there, I have doubts. The KMT loves to repeat that the CSB government is the most corrupt in history, but I might wonder whether it was as corrupt as Changhua County. To give an example, in CSB’s most publicized case, he is accused of stealing NT 700 million and hiding it in an account in Switzerland. In 1998, newspaper reports suggested that one KMT legislator in Changhua, You Huai-yin 游淮銀, had prepared a war chest of NT 700 million to use to buy votes in the upcoming election. Granted, that was more than most people spent, and the reason there was a story is that the other KMT legislators (who were each only planning to spend 100-200 million) didn’t want to compete with You and so were encouraging the KMT to put him on the party list, which the KMT eventually did. However, you get an idea of how much KMT legislators were willing to invest with the expectation that they would reap a profit in a single three year term as one of 225 legislators. These guys didn’t even control a budget, like county executives or town mayors did.
Is the Ma regime fundamentally different from past KMT practices? It might be a bit less corrupt. There is no systematic evidence, but my feeling is that vote-buying is less prevalent today than fifteen years ago. The Ma administration certainly hasn’t been accused of any major corruption scandals. However, the blue camp has its own revolving door problem, with former (and sometimes incumbent) officials going off to China to turn their political connections into nice profits. And it might just be that the blue media isn’t motivated to dig too deeply, and the green media isn’t competent enough to do it.
At any rate, from my point of view, the KMT still seems to be the more corrupt of the two major parties, but the KMT and many, perhaps most, voters obviously disagree with my assessment. The KMT keeps bringing up the corruption issue, which they would not do if they didn’t think it was a winner for them. And I keep shaking my head in bewilderment.