Mon, Jan 02, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Membership reform and youth are key for DPP

By Ting Yun-kong and Ma Wen-yu 丁允恭、馬文鈺

The Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) recent electoral defeat has been followed by much soul searching, but in the end it all amounts to making guesses about the transfer of power between different levels within the party. We would like to submit two suggestions regarding future party reforms from the perspective of young party members at the grassroots level.

First, the party should take immediate concrete administrative action to get rid of the nominal membership scheme.

To deal with the problem of nominal members, the party has on several occasions amended the nomination procedure for preliminary elections to reduce the proportion of party members voting in preliminaries and increase the importance given to public opinion polls. Although membership numbers keep increasing, the political power of members is actually being undermined. Apart from voting in elections, party members have no other power or function to speak of.

In future, we suggest that members pay their annual membership fee in person or arrange a transfer from their bank account. The reason that those who want to inflate membership numbers can keep a firm grip on nominal members is because their membership IDs are collectively managed and fees collectively paid. Establishing a system where everyone pays his or her individual fees would eliminate the current loophole and irregular practices that allow someone in control of a large number of members to pay their membership fees. Furthermore, having members go to a party branch to pay their fee would strengthen party loyalty and participation.

Second, the party should do more to encourage enrollment of younger, more active members.

The party's internal elitist structure is becoming increasingly obvious. Most young political workers no longer attempt to put forward concrete suggestions and political opinions, but merely wait for the benevolent endorsement of their party seniors. The reason for this is the great change that has taken place in the party's power structure, from being a bottom-up model allowing a convergence of ideas to build a strong party, into an imperial top-down structure. Party members are no longer aware of their own rights and duties.

We believe that the party should deregulate and diversify, and use large and small discussion groups to encourage the creation of an active party member movement. One important part of such a movement would be the management of young members.

Ever since the 1990s, the DPP has enjoyed the participation and support of the young, but the party has never had a serious youth movement. Although participants are young, they have either been swallowed up by the elitist culture or joined campaign teams, resulting in the lack of a permanent youth organization.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) recently reorganized its youth wing, and that may become a threat to the foundation of the DPP -- its young members. We find this very worrying.

We suggest that the DPP use the support of its young members to establish a permanent youth wing in order to maintain the party's progressive character. It would also help the party to strengthen its foundations and prepare for the next 20 years.

These two suggestions display hope that the DPP will abandon the current confusing competition between different levels and once again become a mass organization. We hope that this will be the first step on the road toward opening up to the grassroots. Only in this way can the DPP become more open-minded and again act as an agent for enthusiasm and hope.

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