On Sunday, former Presidential Office secretary-general Yu Shyi-kun won a convincing victory in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairmanship election. Yu was able to emerge as the winner because most factions within the DPP were either supportive of his bid or showed no preference for a particular candidate.
Although one of his rivals, DPP Legislator Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮), was supported by a number of factions that backed Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), acting DPP chairperson and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), as well as other non-mainstream factions, he still could not compete with Yu.
And although the third candidate, former Changhua County commissioner Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠), said she would withdraw from the DPP's New Tide faction after throwing her hat into the ring with the endorsement of former DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄), she still failed to garner enough support to challenge Yu.
From the perspective of factional struggles within the DPP, Yu's election to the chairmanship has secured the dominant position of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and the Justice Alliance faction for the time being. Nevertheless, we should not underestimate the power of the New Tide faction, which had an important influence on the result just by refraining from throwing itself behind any specific candidate.
The election results can also be interpreted as indicating that former DPP chairman Su Tseng-chang's (蘇貞昌) star is rising; the New Tide faction seems ready to support Yu and his presidential patron in blocking Hsieh and Lu from the presidential nomination in 2008.
How Chen and Yu respond to the New Tide faction and Su's supporters in the near future will depend on to what degree they share political interests. Yu's election to the chairmanship depended in large measure on the fact that the New Tide faction and Su's supporters cooperated to back him. Now that Hsieh and Lu are becoming marginalized, the front runners for the nomination for the party's 2008 presidential candidate are likely to be Su and Yu.
First, chairman-elect Yu faces major tasks including reforming the party, coordinating between the Executive Yuan, the Legislative Yuan and the party, establishing a platform for communication between the governing and opposition parties, and preparing for future elections.
Yu must root out corruption from the party, as DPP supporters have long desired. Yu's announcement that he wishes to eradicate factions from within the DPP seems to be aimed at the New Tide faction and is certain to trigger more factional disputes.
A more feasible policy would be to focus on rooting out corruption, concentrating on the "three Sunshine Laws and temporarily relaxing his measures against factions. Only in this way can he benefit from the support that the New Tide is likely to give to both him and Chen. Otherwise, obstruction by the factions could become a time bomb for the party.
Second, as Yu is regarded as Chen's proxy, he should have no difficulty communicating with the Presidential Office. Now that Hsieh has stepped down, his successor must determine how to communicate with the new DPP chairman. It is also likely that both the party chairman and the new premier will become presidential candidates in 2008.
That said, Yu's ideal of "collective decision-making" between the government and party is unlikely to be realized. Indeed, going in that direction risks things degenerating into a situation where factions control the party and government, or even a lack of accord between party and government, with each marching to the beat of a different drum.