Thu, Jan 13, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: TSU can't rely on Lee forever

The recent race for the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) chairmanship has finally come to a close. With former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) working behind the scenes, Su Chin-chiang (蘇進強), secretary-general of the National Cultural Association (文化總會), officially took over the chairmanship of the party. Former chairman Huang Chu-wen (黃主文) resigned last month after the TSU's worse-than-expected performance in the legislative elections.

It is obvious that Su's success was orchestrated by Lee, who founded the TSU and is both its "spiritual leader" and chief strategist. In 2001 -- just one year after the TSU was established -- it won 12 seats in the legislative elections. It now retains 11 seats.

The party's status is largely a product of Lee's charisma. This was made apparent when many TSU legislators-elect won despite a lack of political experience or strong local support.

Campaigning under the TSU banner, David Huang (黃適卓), 38, won a seat in a southern Taipei City constituency -- widely regarded as a pan-blue stronghold -- despite a lack of public recognition. He also squeezed out experienced DPP legislators Shen Fu-hsiung (沈富雄) and Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康). His victory can be attributed to the fact that he is the son of Huang Chu-wen, and had he failed to win a seat in the legislature, Lee would have lost face. Sharp as Lee may seem, at 84, he will have to retire from the political arena sooner or later. The TSU's supporters might wonder what will become of the TSU without Lee at the helm.

A few days ago, Su told reporters that the party will in the future work to "develop culture and consolidate grassroots support." This slogan sounds good, but how will he go about doing this?

Su's mission is not only to keep the TSU relevant after Lee stops pulling the strings, he also must position the party within the convoluted blue-green political environment. Because Su's political influence cannot compare to Lee's, the TSU can no longer rely on having their candidates elected simply by having the party leader support them in election campaigns.

In local elections, such as for county commissioner, city mayor, or even the legislative elections where grassroots play an important role, local support of candidates is crucial to victory.

Two TSU candidates are good examples. Yin Lin-in (尹伶瑛), who ran for a legislative seat in Yunlin County, and Ling Tzu-chu (凌子楚), who ran for a seat in Chiayi City. Both are second generation Mainlanders. Yin is well known locally. She was already a county councilor who involved herself in environmental issues, revealing several cases of corruption and achieving a fairly good political record. Last year, she was elected to the legislature.

Ling, a professional soldier, looked as though he was on a mission during legislative election campaigning. Although Lee considered him a rare talent, he failed to win a seat because he lacked local support.

Whatever the case may be, second generation Mainlanders are now appearing in the ranks of the TSU, which is conventionally perceived as the radical wing of the pan green camp. This clearly shows that a "Taiwan consciousness" has spread into the Mainlander population. It also indicates that the TSU is only concerned with their members' stance on national identity, and not which ethnic community they hail from.

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