In Taichung 2, the KMT has decided not to allow Chi Kuo-tung 紀國棟 to contest the primary. There are several interesting aspects to this.
Chi is a four-term incumbent legislator who has been elected on the party list the last two terms. Since the KMT limits people to two consecutive terms on the party list, Chi was trying to go back to his home district. The incumbent in Taichung 2 is also a KMT member, Yen Kuan-heng 顏寬恒. Yen won the seat in a by-election a couple years ago when his father, noted gang godfather Yen Ching-piao 顏清標, was stripped of the seat for reporting improper expenses. The first angle to look at is that the KMT had an opportunity to distance itself from the Yen family and chose not to take that opportunity. Chi was not even afforded the chance to contest a survey against Yen.
A second angle involves money. The KMT requires its legislators to pay dues to the party coffers. Chi hadn’t paid these dues, and he owed the party NT4 million from the past four years. (Aside: Either Chi is that rare honest politician who doesn’t take kickbacks, or he is a pretty incompetent crook. Legislators are supposed to have a few million lying around in their fish ponds just in case they need petty cash and the ATM is broken.) Chi managed to scrape together the four million so that he could be eligible for the primary, but a few days after he delivered the cash, the KMT informed him that he hadn’t passed the initial evaluation and was disqualified. Now he’s complaining that the party shook him down. Of course, the party disagrees. They think he owed the money in the first place; paying it only allowed him to register and start the process. The fact that he did not pass the first stage evaluation is immaterial.
The remaining angles all involve the fact that Chi is a party list legislator. The third involves party discipline. The unofficial reason that Chi did not pass the evaluation stage is that he often went on TV talk shows where he not only didn’t vigorously defend the KMT, he sometimes even criticized it. (My own impression from watching some of these appearances is that he is nowhere near Lo Shu-lei’s 羅淑蕾 level of criticizing his own party. He would sometimes make mild criticisms, but he generally defended KMT actions. I guess they saw it differently.) I’ve been waiting several years for a clear case in which a party explicitly refused to renominate a party list legislator for not working hard enough for party interests. Theoretically, this was supposed to happen. Here it is!
The fourth angle involves the difference in stature between district and list legislators. All of the district legislators passed the party evaluation stage. Apparently they have the freedom to speak out as they please. The committee wasn’t even sure that he qualified as an incumbent legislator, since the rules could be interpreted as being written for incumbent district legislators. They even suggested that Chi did not have the right to go home to challenge a KMT incumbent. List legislators “have the obligation to follow the party’s directives in deciding where to run.”
In Taiwan, list legislators are pretty clearly second class citizens. However, this case surprised me. Chi is not a “pure” list legislator. He is a former township mayor, and he won two terms as a district legislator. He has proven that he can win votes. I expected he would be treated with a bit more respect. This two-caste system of legislators is a bit bothersome to me, especially since it seems likely that Taiwan will expand the legislature by adding more party list legislators.
The final point about Chi’s case is that it was suggested that Chi should run against the DPP incumbent in Taichung 3. Let me get this straight. Chi didn’t pass the internal evaluation, so he isn’t qualified to run in Taichung 2. However, he would be perfectly acceptable to the party running in Taichung 3. Sure, that makes sense.