Thu, Nov 16, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Lee's third force is just an illusion

By Hsu Yung-ming 徐永明

Recent news reports claim that former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) is advocating the establishment of a third political force, and that he plans to split the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) by asking KMT Deputy Chairman and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and DPP heavyweight Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) to establish a new party.

Particularly noteworthy is Lee's reputed wish to promote a third presidential ticket in the 2008 presidential election to represent forces outside the pan-green and pan-blue camps.

As the fervor behind the anti-Chen campaign is cooling down, it is clear that Lee still has not given up on Taiwan's democratic project in the post-Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) era and is trying to influence the next presidential election.

A third presidential ticket will not necessarily have a chance of being elected, but it will influence the capacity to attract votes among the other tickets.

If a pro-localization ticket were to materialize, it would take votes from the DPP. This means that a third force would not necessarily be able to achieve Lee's original goals, but it would certainly wreak havoc on the pro-localization vote.

If Wang were to leave the KMT, he would not become a second Lee.

The pan-blue vote would not reproduce the result of the 1996 presidential election when Lee and his vice presidential candidate Lien Chan (連戰) won despite the fact that Lin Yang-kang (林洋港) and Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村) ran as independents candidates.

Rather, there would likely be a repeat of the 2000 election. This terrible humiliation for the pan-blues means that there is little room for Wang to come out and run as an independent. One scenario in which this might happen would be that the KMT suffers a defeat in the Taipei and Kaohsiung mayoral elections that forces KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to step down only to be replaced as chairman by Wang who would then be nominated as the party's presidential candidate.

Another possibility would be that the DPP loses in Taipei and Kaohsiung forcing Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and Chairman Yu shyi-kun to step down to shoulder responsibility for the loss.

Chen could then take the opportunity to shuffle his cards and appoint Wang premier. Bolstered by his newly acquired executive position, Wang might then win the KMT's presidential nomination.

These scenarios show that the upcoming mayoral elections may determine the direction of the future political situation. It is, however, difficult to guess how a third force would develop since the advent of the red-clad campaign did not open up space for a new middle-of-the-road force.

Instead, it led to unrest and an intensified stand-off between the pan-green and pan-blue camps, and the current political atmosphere has reduced the ability of new social forces like the DPP's "new generation forum" and the "six green group" from making an impact.

But the will to punish the DPP certainly coincides with Lee's ideas about a third force. "Middle-of-the-road" is but a phrase, and the important thing is to split the elites.

Grassroots mobilization has become a way to split the vote. Together with Ma's high support ratings in the opinion polls, a third force could only harm the DPP without deconstructing the blue-green framework and may even amplify the trend toward a pan-blue majority.

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