Wed, Jan 26, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Can Soong reposition the People First Party?

By Chin Heng-wei金恆煒

When observing the political situation, one keeps one's eyes on the changes that occur and the differences that result, and not so much on the consistencies that remain.

One of the biggest potential changes following last month's legislative elections is whether the People First Party (PFP) will change its political hue from orange to a once unthinkable green.

In truth, up until now, the answer to this has remained obscure.

This is especially in view of the fact that PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) has remained in the US at a time when the next premier and vice premier of the Executive Yuan are being decided upon.

This indicates that the chairman is willing to leave the nomination for vice-premier to his party caucus, and not be consulted.

The PFP is known as a one-man party, so when exactly did the chairman take himself out of the loop?

The selection of the vice premier is no trifling matter, nor does it just involve one party. The chairman should be there to exercise his influence and authority, and it is strange indeed that Soong has seen fit to distance himself from proceedings in this way.

Not only is the governing party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), not behaving in a similar fashion, the leadership of the opposition Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) are also throwing all their energy into the issue.

So why is this third party, the PFP, setting itself apart in such a manner?

The key to all this is the PFP's determination to "do things their own way."

The first step in doing so was to drop any idea of a KMT-PFP merger, and to draw a line between the parties in the pan-blue camp, making a distinction between the "blues" (the KMT) and the "oranges" (the PFP). Only then could there be talk of reaching an agreement with the DPP.

The PFP hold the higher ground in this -- whether we are talking of mere agreement or actual cooperation, or whether it all amounts to just rumor or indeed comes to pass -- for as long as the possibility of the two parties collaborating exists, the PFP has a bargaining chip in its dealings with the KMT.

The PFP should hurry to secure the right to nominate the vice-premier.

And what does the PFP stand to lose from the helping hand offered by the DPP?

These two parties have yet to really sit down and talk politics, and the PFP, for its own sake, should now do what it can to make use of the moment and seize the initiative.

So, while he is still in the US, with the political situation here in Taiwan up in the air -- and with the PFP floating above it all -- Soong has won for himself the most favorable strategic position.

More importantly, he has won himself the space to observe the situation and ponder what to do next.

Taiwanese politics is now in a new Warring States period, and the PFP is already seeing the fruits of its refusal to merge with the KMT.

What they really have to carefully consider now is whether they can actually carve out a place for themselves within the developing political environment.

But Soong cannot stay in the US forever pondering his future. He has to deal with the situation playing out in Taiwan while opportunities are presenting themseleves.

The PFP's next move will be the real test.

Chin Heng-wei is editor-in-chief of Contemporary Monthly magazine.


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