Tue, Nov 11, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Blue-camp lethargy helps the DPP

By Emile Sheng (盛治仁)

As the election campaign heats up, we can see the predicaments facing the blue and green camps in terms of strategy and implementation.

For the blue camp, the lack of a quick response mechanism and the poor ability to manipulate issues are merely superficial problems. Its most serious and fundamental problem is the lack of a consistent attitude and discourse on core issues. Simply put, does the blue camp have consistent and clear views on core campaign issues -- be they on the cross-strait front or the economic front? Once they hammer out these viewpoints, other problems can be readily solved. Otherwise, the blue camp will fall into a predicament in which it can only react to its opponent's moves as they come, being always passive and slow to respond.

This has already happened over three issues: the "one-country on each side" dictum, referendums and the creation of a new constitution. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was the first to present these issues. The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the People First Party (PFP) have always opposed the DPP's stance in a formulaic response, and then revised their positions after discovering a poorer-than-expected response from the public.

If the KMT and PFP do not have a complete set of views on these issues, then they will be unable to break out of this cycle even if they have a better rapid-response force. One concrete manifestation of this is the disparate statements often made by KMT-PFP representatives in media comments.

Though in a passive position on these issues, the KMT and PFP still have room to develop their platforms and are not necessarily at a disadvantage. For example, regarding "one country on each side," the KMT and PFP could have quickly defined it as a description of the status quo, with the People's Republic of China on one side and the Republic of China on the other. They could have claimed that there was no conflicting point between the two camps -- if there was one, that would mean that the DPP's "other side" is the Republic of Taiwan.

On the referendum issue, the KMT and PFP should have supported the spirit and conduct of referendums while stating that referendums should not obstruct economic development, that there should be complementary accountability measures and that referendums should be held after legislation.

As for creating a new constitution, they could have countered the green camp's plan by proposing constitutional amendments. They could also present a complete version of constitutional amendments to prove their sincerity and ability to carry out reforms. There is also a consistent pattern to these approaches -- seeking differences amid similarities. They must agree with their opponent's views on the general direction of localization and reforms, while using differences beneficial to themselves as a keynote in their debate. Only then will they not be painted as anti-reform; only then will they have an opportunity to pull the campaign back to economic issues.

Being in a relatively disadvantageous position, the DPP has raised many major issues to try to strike at the existing structure. On the surface, such an aggressive approach may create an appearance of leading the debate, but at the same time it also carries a relatively higher risk of making mistakes. The fact that the DPP has been able to take this approach has very much to do with the KMT-PFP camp's passive responses. For example, the DPP made a major mistake in its campaign when it used a spurious cut-and-paste approach in a TV commercial to insinuate that Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was "abandoning Taiwan and toadying up to China." But the KMT-PFP camp let go of this opportunity. Compare this to the DPP's vehement response to the PFP Legislator Kao Ming-chien (高明見) incident [in which Kao was accused of collaborating with Beijing to create an impression that China was helping Taiwan during the SARS crisis]. No wonder the D PP has so much room to make mistakes and try out different tactics one after another.

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