Thu, Aug 03, 2006 - Page 8 News List

DPP misses the target in attempt to cut factions

By Lin Cho-shui 林濁水

The Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) national congress passed a motion to dissolve the party's factions to thunderous applause.

But the effort was wasted, because shortly after the motion was passed at around 2pm on July 23, the factions were resurrected in the Central Standing Committee election.

Except for Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), who is an "ex officio" committee member, almost all the elected committee members -- including Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun, and legislative caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) -- are faction leaders or representatives, or "anti-faction supporters" elected through factional vote allocation. The DPP's new Central Standing Committee is once again composed of factions.

As a mediator between the nation and public, a political party in a democracy has two major functions. First, it must recommend political and legislative talent to all levels of government, including directly elected government heads, representatives and administrative officials. Second, it must compile public opinion to form policies and laws to run the nation.

Within a party, factions play the role of mediator between the party's headquarters and its members. They help to select party and public officials, and collect opinions from members.

Outside of politics, even civil organizations have factions. Without a board of directors supported by factions, the head of an organization would be hard-pressed to pass any administrative measures. Still, unity among such factions is much looser, because civil organizations do not exercise power at the national level.

The general public and the government have no way to link without parties, and different parties have arisen to reflect the diversity of public opinion. Similarly, the diverse memberships of parties and organizations means they split into factions.

But although all parties have factions, their operations may differ. The factions of more conservative parties tend to pay less attention to ideals and instead focus on winning public posts. The factions of revolutionary or reformist parties, however, often give more weight to ideals and party direction, and tend to launch more reforms. This is the situation abroad as well as within the DPP.

Without the maneuvering of factions, the DPP may not have passed such measures as its "Resolution on Taiwan's Future," its pro-Taiwan independence platform and the "mass line," as they may have been considered too radical at a time when the party was focused on winning official positions. Without the support of the factions, it is possible that the party's pro-Taiwan independence platform would have been removed under the leadership of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

The DPP's decision to dissolve its factions was useless, because the key to weakening them lies instead in reforming the party at a fundamental level. Using the US as an example, the party leadership must be further weakened, the Central Standing Committee must be abolished, party leaders must not interfere with national policies, the party chair should only be an election campaign manager or a general affairs director, and nominations for official posts should be based entirely on public primaries. Even with all this, factions are likely to persist, as so-called "party bosses" still exist in the US.

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