Thu, Nov 16, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Parties divided in more than name

By Nat Bellocchi 白樂崎

On Nov. 2, I decided to write about what I thought the people of Taiwan were likely to encounter in the months and years ahead.

First I wrote on what the two major parties might do from the present to the presidential election in 2008, and then the options the two parties might entertain after the election.

On Nov. 3, much of what I wrote suddenly changed. Chief Prosecutor Eric Chen (陳瑞仁) had said a few days before that he would release his findings on the "state affairs fund" on Nov. 8. The information triggered a media flood suggesting the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) would disintegrate. There were countless ideas on just what would replace either the people or the party itself.

That is not to say that the political situation is now any clearer. There are still many people that want the president to step down, and others that continue to debate how the DPP should proceed.

The mayoral elections take place next month, and the legislature and the presidential election are not far off.

For weeks before, there were large demonstrations demanding the president step down from his duties and two recall motions were tabled in the Legislative Yuan, though both failed. Some of this intent still exists, but not with the fever of the past.

The problems of the DPP are by far greater, but even the problems of the opposition Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) now seem more visible.

So now when we consider what the two major parties will do -- the DPP and the KMT -- one finds some important differences from what we saw only a few days back.

For one thing, most people thought the indictment of first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) would trigger a change in president. That isn't the case, as by law the prosecutor's case must be turned over to the courts.

For the DPP, in the next few months, the first priority must be to regain both the voters that left them over the last six months and the reputation for cleanliness the party once had. Given the short time before the next election, it also means much greater urgency in overcoming the harm done by the opposition's blockade of badly needed laws.

There is also one of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) personal commitments: the DPP must reclaim the KMT's stolen assets that were acquired by the party many years ago.

This is probably the most difficult and sensitive of the tasks confronting the governing party.

There is now intense rivalry within the DPP leadership for the 2008 presidential candidacy. This is natural and is generally decided a few months before the election.

But given the circumstances the party is in, with the opposition already having long had its probable candidate for the president chosen, a decision might be needed much sooner.

An almost equally important election for the new legislature will also need an unusually early decision to choose candidates.

Party objectives such as constitutional change and international recognition, among others, will be controversial. Beyond that, the differences within the DPP on many domestic issues will be difficult to resolve. The party is divided and will require a lot of time to reach a consensus.

The events of the last few months in Taiwan brought another challenge to Taiwan's democracy. On the KMT side, elements of the pan-blue media were instrumental in trying to force Chen Shui-bian to give up the presidency.

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