Thu, Aug 24, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Is there no room for a third force in Taiwan?

By Wang Kun-yi 王崑義

Former Democratic Progres-sive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh's (施明德) campaign to force President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to step down might be praiseworthy if it enables Shih to put a stop to the squabbling between the pan-blue and pan-green camps and create a space for the rise of a third force.

Developments over the past few days, however, show no signs of moving in this direction. On the contrary, we see Shih unwittingly becoming trapped in the confrontation between the two camps, and worse, becoming part of the pan-blue anti-Chen forces of the past six years.

The most obvious signs of this are Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) approval of Shih's round-the-clock sit-in demonstration in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei, support for his campaign from another former DPP chairman, Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良), and other former "fervently green" individuals who have turned "deep blue," and even Shih's own recent meeting with fugitive tycoon Chen Yu-hao (陳由豪). With all these names cropping up, it would be difficult for Shih not to be seen as pro-blue.

Looking at these events, it's easy to conclude that most of the members of the public who signed Shih's petition or donated NT$100 to his campaign are in fact pan-blue supporters. So it does not matter how many people send donations, as the pan-blues will continue to call on Chen to step down while the pan-greens will continue to support the president. Shih's campaign is thus not representative of a third force.

Since there does not seem to be much room for the development of a third force in the country, Shih will likely suffer the same fate as Hsu when the campaign is over -- that is, being booted out by the pan-blue camp as soon as he is no longer useful.

To survive, he will have to be "bluer" than the pan-blue camp, just like Hsu was when he abruptly decided to stage a solitary sit-in demonstration while the pan-blue camp was holding its own rallies following the presidential election on March 20, 2004. This could well be a picture of Shih's future.

Regardless of whether they are organized by pro-green activists, academics, the Democratic Action Alliance (民主行動聯盟) or Shih, the campaigns calling for Chen's resignation are all political in nature. Since all these campaigns draw their inspiration from the pan-blue camp's anti-Chen demagoguery, they are motivated more by hatred than the desire to promote a new way of thinking. As such, any more campaigns to force Chen to step down will not create more room for new thinking or shed new light on the country's road to democratization. A political movement that doesn't bring enlightenment will only disturb the public, and will not result in any progress at all.

If traditional political activities cannot move past being an emotional protest against a specific individual, then involving a wider spectrum of participants will merely create a new kind of populist movement. It will neither transcend the urban elite nor create new ideological values, but only plant the seed for the next conflict.

This is true of traditional political conflict in Chinese society, as well as of the pan-blue camp's power struggles following the rule of former president and KMT chairman Lee Teng-hui (李登輝). If Shih is unable to transcend these historically imposed structural constraints, he is certainly unlikely to be able to use this campaign to further widen his appeal.

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