Wed, Dec 07, 2005 - Page 8 News List

The DPP loses when it abandons localization

By Chin Heng-wei 金恆煒

The PAN-green camp's supporters gave the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) a reprimand through its serious defeat in the Dec. 3 local government elections.

Take Taipei County for example: the DPP lost a lot of support in traditional pro-green districts, while the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) won big in traditional pro-blue districts. The DPP's support base shrank while the KMT's swelled. No wonder the DPP lost the county.

Now, what is the lesson for the DPP? Why are its supporters angry with it? What issues does it have to think through?

The DPP succeeded in transforming itself from an opposition party into a ruling party. Perhaps the power transition in 2000 was the will of God, thanks to the pan-blue camp's split. But the re-election of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was the voters' choice. The pan-green camp won last years' presidential election because of its localized nature, while the KMT lost because of its "party-state" core.

The significance of the election was that the pro-independence pan-green camp and the pro-unification pan-blue camp underwent a "golden crossover," with mainstream opinion in Taiwan switching from the pan-blue camp's China-centric position to the pan-green camp's Taiwan-centric one. On that occasion, it was the reason the DPP was able to win over Taiwanese people's hearts.

As one falls in politics, another rises. Politics is always a seesaw. And even though the DPP controls the central government, it cannot afford to lose its comparative advantage in relation to the KMT. Its advantage lies in its local ideology. Unfortunately, there has been a tide of ideological backsliding in the DPP as it has tried to appeal to moderate voters, and it has cost the party its political advantage.

There is nothing wrong with appealing to moderates, but political ideals should not be sacrificed in the process. As the party curried favor with moderate voters while moving away from the pan-greens, it was inevitable that its original supporters would become irritated.

Looking back at Taiwan's history, why did former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) fail to achieve his "great reconciliation?" Why did former DPP legislator Shen Fu-hsiung (沈富雄) fail to be re-elected after moving toward the middle? Wasn't the DPP's defeat this time a result of its policy of "reconciliation and coexistence?"

In contrast, Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) has been severely attacked by pan-blue camp lawmakers because of his insistence on Taiwan's localization. Despite this he remains at his post, and has become a pan-green camp favorite.

Government Information Office Minister Pasuya Yao (姚文智) withdrew the licenses of seven television stations and punished TVBS for exceeding limits on foreign capital. Although he was also severely attacked by the outside world, he has become the pan-green camp's hero. Would the DPP lose support if the Cabinet was full of people like Tu and Yao?

It is necessary for the DPP to assess itself following its defeat. But the point is not a Cabinet reshuffle or a new premier. If the pan-green camp continues to curry favor with the pan-blue camp and fails to insist on and fight for what it should -- while forgetting justice and giving up its ideals to reach a compromise -- its defeat in last week's elections will be the first of many. Every thing depends on how well the DPP has learned its lesson.

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