Sun, Jul 16, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Pan-green merger? Not so fast

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Yu Shyi-kun proposed last week to solidify the "pan-green alliance" with the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) as a step toward creating a genuine two-party system in Taiwan. His proposal makes sense and conforms to the hopes of moderate voters, who are sick and tired of the unrest and animosity associated with the complicated love-hate intra-party relationships of the current multi-party system. However, the timing of his proposal is not good and the TSU is unlikely to embrace the proposal enthusiastically at this time.

Everyone knows that the DPP is not in very good shape these days, with a series of scandals still under investigation implicating DPP officials and members of the first family, and President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) having just survived a legislative campaign to recall him. Popular support for the party remains at a low ebb. Perhaps Yu feels that the worst hours of the DPP's recent history are over and that now is a good time for a fresh start. Surely this is also the hope of the general public.

However, this does not mean that the TSU is ready to get cozy with the DPP. With the DPP's image seriously tarnished, the TSU obviously doesn't want to be seen to be too close to its pan-green ally. The TSU is obviously worried about its chances in the next two elections: The Taipei and Kaohsiung mayoral election at the end of this year and the legislative elections at the end of next year.

The TSU's desire for distance is no different to the way that people in the DPP have been in such a hurry to draw a line between the party and Chen and his family. No one wants to be dragged down by the bad fortune of others. That is the sad reality of politics. To put this more bluntly: It is precisely because the DPP's image has been so seriously hurt that the TSU is better advised to criticize rather than cooperate with it. The TSU is confronted with a great opportunity to take a bigger slice of the pan-green vote.

It is generally acknowledged that with the implementation of the "single-member, two-vote" system in the next legislative election, smaller political parties such as the TSU and the People First Party (PFP) will be at a disadvantage. After the smaller parties lose seats in the legislature, most observers expect that they will merge with the bigger parties fairly quickly.

However, the mergers are not likely to occur smoothly. This is certainly the case for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the PFP. Although PFP members and politicians are defecting to the KMT on almost a daily basis, PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) is far from ready to throw in the towel. Throughout the campaign to recall Chen, Soong was competing with KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for leadership of the pan-blue camp. This was taking place despite the fact that the KMT has been in relatively good shape during the past few months, and having done well in last year's local elections. In comparison, the TSU would seem to have even more room to resist a scandal-ridden DPP.

Even if mergers do take place, the weaker party would always want to make sure that it gets a good deal out of the move. The only way to accomplish this is for the minor party to strengthen itself as much as possible before the planned merger to give itself more bargaining leverage. For the TSU, doing well in the next two elections will help it accomplish precisely that. So it isn't ready to talk to the DPP -- at least not yet.

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