The cost of the sunflowers for KMT legislators

I’d like to take a moment to think back to the various controversies of the past four years and think about some of the KMT legislators involved in them. Almost without exception, these legislators are facing serious threats to their careers. Even though their political foundations didn’t seem shaky at the time, here we are looking at the possibility that very few of them will be back in the next legislature.

Alex Tsai 蔡正元 was probably the most reviled KMT legislator. He had a knack for saying just the right thing to inflame students. At one point, he drove his car a considerable distance with a protester hanging on. He also ran Sean Lien’s disastrous mayoral campaign. Tsai was one of the three targets of the Appendectomy Project, an effort to recall legislators who had spearheaded the effort to pass the Services Trade Agreement. Tsai decided not to run for re-election in Taipei 4, even though most people thought he would have been able to win another term in this deep blue district. He originally announced he wouldn’t run for re-election in order to run for mayor. When that didn’t work out, there were widespread rumors that he was trying to arrange a seat on the KMT party list. However, that list turned out not to have any space for him. Tsai will not be in the next legislature.

The other main target of the sunflower movement was Chang Ching-chung 張慶忠. Chang was the legislator who rammed the Services Trade Agreement through the committee hearing using, how shall we say, dubious methods. For this, the protesters named him “30 second Chang” 半分忠. He was also one of the three targets of the Appendectomy Project. Chang is running for re-election in New Taipei 8, which has always been a reliably deep blue district. However, all the polls and media reports have showed Chang in trouble. I still can’t quite bring myself to believe that the KMT could possibly lose this district, but merely being in an intense fight is an indication of how much political damage has been done to Chang.

The third target of the Appendectomy Project was Wu Yu-sheng 吳育昇, in New Taipei 1. Wu was originally elected in 2004 as one of Ma Ying-jeou’s personal soldiers, and he loyally supported Ma’s agenda for the next decade. However, now that Ma is leaving office in a blaze of unpopularity, Wu has tried to distance himself from Ma. Earlier this year, he made several gestures in support of Eric Chu and asked reporters not to refer to him as being part of the Ma faction. This year, Wu seems to be in real trouble. The DPP had real trouble settling on a single candidate and ended up with an inexperienced 27 year old to challenge Wu in a district that has always had a clear blue advantage. Nevertheless, most evidence suggests that Wu is losing by a significant margin.

Chiu Yi 邱毅 isn’t an incumbent legislator, but this list wouldn’t be complete without him. Chiu lost his re-election bid in 2012 and has spent the last four years going on talk shows and spewing the wild accusations that no one else has the brass to say out loud. Chiu tried to re-enter the legislature by running for Alex Tsai’s seat in Taipei 4. However, he could not even come close to winning the primary, finishing behind three city councilors. He apparently then set his sights on a KMT party list seat, but he didn’t get that either. He is now running on the New Party list, a much less promising way to get back into the legislature. At least his old buddy Alex Tsai is publicly asking voters to vote for the New Part list.

Lin Hung-chih 林鴻池 was the KMT party whip during the sunflower movement. Lin was never a particularly strident ideological diehard, but he was a loyal soldier trying to implement party positions. This meant that he was on the front lines trying to push the Services Trade Agreement through. It also meant that Lin was one of the people Ma tried to empower after his attempted September 2013 purge of Speaker Wang. In an attempt to hollow out Wang’s power, Ma tried to work through Lin and the KMT party caucus. After the sunflower movement subsided, Lin resigned as party whip, complaining about being put under tremendous amounts of political pressure. He then announced he would not run for re-election in New Taipei 6. Lin was personally popular with his constituents and had always won easily. However, his district is greener than most people think, and he probably would have faced a serious challenge if he had run for re-election. I originally thought that New Taipei 6 would be one of the highest profile races this year. Instead, Lin just gave up. Lin might have been in line to succeed Eric Chu as New Taipei mayor, but it seems that his once promising career has become a casualty of Ma’s insistence on ramming the Services Trade Agreement through the legislature without any changes.

Lu Hsueh-chang 呂學樟 was one of the KMT legislators who led the effort to settle accounts after the dust had settled. One of his attacks was focused on Academia Sinica, where he investigated the behavior of academics who had supported the sunflowers. Lu wanted to run for re-election in Hsinchu City, but he unexpectedly lost in the primary. He is out.

Lo Shu-lei 羅淑蕾 was another of the KMT’s mouthpieces who seemed willing to say anything, regardless of whether there was clear evidence. She was a harsh critic of the sunflower demonstrators, and she was one of the main attack dogs in Sean Lien’s mayoral campaign. She wanted to run for re-election in Taipei 3, but, like Lu, she suffered a defeat in her primary contest. She was also rumored to be trying to secure a position on the KMT party list, but she also failed to do this. She will be leaving the legislature soon.

I could probably include others on this list, but the point is that the legislators on the front lines of Ma’s agenda have incurred a tremendous amount of damage to their personal careers. Perhaps this will serve as a warning to future politicians to think twice about blindly following misguided orders from the top or stubbornly pushing forward with an unpopular agenda.

 

 

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