Sun, Aug 13, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Shih's campaign more bark than bite

Former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-Teh (施明德) came under the media spotlight this week -- after a long period of silence -- for a series of initiatives designed to compel President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to step down.

Shih's activities have symbolic significance due to his historical ties with the DPP, but are unlikely to enjoy much success. The truth of the matter is the worst moment for Chen has passed. In the absence of any new and dramatic revelation, Chen is widely expected to finish the remainder of his term. No amount of open or "back room" condemnation by Shih or any other former DPP bigwig -- such as Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良) -- is likely to accomplish anything much.

It cannot be denied that Shih and Hsu played an important role in the dissident movement of the Martial Law era and in the nation's democratization process. Their ties with the DPP run deep -- the fact that they both served as DPP chairman pretty much speaks for itself.

However, during the past few years, they have gone out of their way to criticize or rubbish the DPP. When they periodically resurface to make news, it has typically been to promote some agenda in which they side with the pan-blues. Hsu's speech at the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) headquarters last week during a celebration for the one-year anniversary of Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) inauguration as KMT chairman is a particularly obvious case in point.

Perhaps Shih and Hsu genuinely feel that they have risen above the petty inter-party bickering that constitutes contemporary Taiwanese politics, and are simply taking on an impartial role as "fatherly" advisor or critic. Unfortunately, there is little room in the nation's politics for so-called "moderates" or impartial figures.

In today's Taiwan, the world is clearly divided between blue and green, and never the twain shall meet. In particular, for figures with a strong affiliation or background in one camp, almost the only alternative to strong party identification is to swing rapidly and sharply to the opposite side. The voters on the other side will embrace you, because you are living proof that their enemies (that is, your old comrades) were wrong. There is no turning back, however, because your old friends will consider, rightly, that you have betrayed them. And this is the situation with Shih and Hsu.

Under the circumstances, Shih and Hsu have virtually no influence in the DPP and among pan-green voters in general. When they speak out against the DPP government and Chen, those who are "moved" or "inspired" are not pan-green supporters but pan-blue supporters. In fact, every time they speak, traditional pan-green supporters are enraged, as they feel that the pan-blue camp is deliberately using Shih and Hsu to insult them. Under the circumstances, the fact that Ma has already indicated that his party will support Shih's campaign will only further alienate pan-green voters from the campaign.

At the same time as Shih launched his campaign, there has been a lot of speculation about the attitude of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and former DPP chairman Lin I-Hsiung (林義雄). Lin carries much more weight within the DPP than Shih and Hsu because he has completely retired from party political activities, and has dedicated himself to social activism. As the spiritual leader of the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), Lee also enjoys considerable influence among pan-green voters.

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