Fri, Oct 06, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan's parties face challenges

By Nat Bellocchi 白樂崎

It is clear that any political move by either of the two major political parties in Taiwan between now and early 2008 will be seen to have some kind of connection to the presidential election.

At this time, despite all the efforts to oust President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) -- or show support for him -- both of the two major political parties are having problems preparing for the coming election.

Inside the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), there is serious rivalry among key players to gain the party's backing for presidential candidate. There is also the continuing inability of the DPP to overcome the opposition's blockade of important legislation pending in the Legislative Yuan.

In addition there have been accusations that the president has not sufficiently controlled the Presidential Office, nor established a sound relationship with the media. But at the same time, there has been considerable improvement in Taiwan's democratic openness, giving the people of Taiwan a free lifestyle that is as good or better than in most democratic countries worldwide.

The party continues to maintain its objective that Taiwan is independent, that its name should be changed, and that a new national constitution be adopted, among other key policy issues. These hopes inevitably concern the US and China.

Though these policy goals are often repeated to bolster the DPP's core constituency and to remind the world of Taiwan's political situation, occasionally the party pushes the envelope. The issues raised are clearly in need of a dialogue between Taiwan, China and the US.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is in a period of internal change with results that are still uncertain. The party has had one overriding objective -- to regain power.

That is not unusual in any democratic country. The difference is this party has engaged in direct dialogue with the nation's principal adversary for domestic political advantage. The agenda has been enlarged by the KMT's legislative opposition to an important weapons procurement bill that is considered by many analysts to be crucial to the defense of the nation.

KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was expected to introduce wide-ranging reforms, but with two caveats -- continued acceptance that Taiwan is a part of China, and that it will eventually accept unification. He has stated that the party will cease to conduct commercial operations and that any change in Taiwan's status must be approved by the people.

While this is Ma's stated position, the party he controls does not seem to accept it without qualification. There is, for example, no desire within the party to change the nation's Constitution.

Many of the party's old habits, such as the infamous "black gold" politicking, an unhealthy penchant for Singapore-style authoritarianism and a lingering sense of attachment to China, though not spoken in public, are still part of the party's basic makeup.

What would each party do if they were to win the presidency? If the presidential election results in another split government, we are likely to see more of the same political deadlock we have witnessed over the last six years.

The KMT, with its larger pool of administrative talent to draw upon -- might bring some policy changes that will be supported by some, but will also be opposed by many.

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