Those of us who have watched the Democratic Progressive Party with sympathy since its funding 17 years ago have learned never to underestimate its ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. And overwhelmingly the reason for this has been interpersonal rivalries within the party. Of course all political parties are full of rivalries. But in most there is an understanding that what matters for any party most of all is power. Lose it and you lose everything. In the end, therefore, a compromise has to be reached between the ambitious, in which the interests of the party have to be put first and ambition must take a back seat.
Perhaps it is because the DPP is such a new party that it seems not to understand this. Maybe it is because the party still represents a coming together of disparate people having independent power bases as a result of their status as tang wai activists, rather than a cadre raised by and in the party owing their stature to the party alone and consequently more reluctant to challenge it. Whatever, the mood of fratricide stalking the party over the issue of who is to run as Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) running mate shows the DPP, like the Bourbons, has "learned nothing and forgotten nothing."
Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) wants another four years as vice president. Some in the DPP are opposed to this. The pro-Lu camp has two factions, those who like Lu's outspokenness, and those who think for Chen to choose anyone other than Lu would be to anoint a successor, which for reasons of factional weakness they want to avoid. There are also rumors that Lu is threatening to release a book chronicling the snafus of the Chen administration should she not be chosen, basically blackmailing her way onto the ticket.
Looking at Lu's candidacy from first principles, will it, compared with the other options, enhance or diminish Chen's chances? Evidence from polls suggests the latter.
As to Lu's performance, so much of what she has both done and said recently has been embarrassing balderdash, aimed not at the country or even the party but at some strange vanity project of her own. Hearing Lu speak on international affairs -- which were supposed to be her forte -- has become excruciatingly embarrassing. Her lecture to the military two years ago on Taiwan's "soft power" and "Hello Kitty personality" and the need to become a "cuddly country adored by the international community" showed a deplorable lack of gravitas; nothing she has said since has shown this deficiency to be only temporary. To those who do not thrill to Lu's anti-China drum-banging -- the very voters Chen must carry to win re-election -- Lu has become a joke.
This raises two problems. Unless Chen wins this is likely to be the last democratic presidential election Taiwan holds -- the blue camp now being so completely the tail wagged by China's dog. If Lu is threatening to use her book as a weapon, we have to ask if she is prepared to see the destruction of Taiwan's independence and political and social freedoms just out of a sense of wounded self-esteem?
The second problem is that if not Lu, then who? What is needed, for the good of the party, is a decision process that all can agree on, the results of which all will respect. The real problem is that due to Chen's playing with this topic in hints and suggestions, and arrogating the decision to himself rather than a more democratic process, it is now virtually too late for such a decision to be taken. Once again bad blood and bruised egos might be the undoing of the DPP in an election that is far too important to lose.
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