Sun, Jan 28, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Beyond a binary view of politics

By Liu Dsih-chi 劉子琦

Some in the media have said that Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators have been circulating a petition asking that party primaries for the December legislative elections be conducted using polls that filter out pan-blue camp voters.

They want to purify the views of the DPP by excluding the deep blue, light blue and centrist voters who make up nearly 50 percent of the electorate. Their objective is simple and reasonable -- they do not want non-DPP voters to participate in the party's nomination process and thereby affect the party's legislative nominations.

They fear that pan-blue voters will either choose weak candidates who will not be able to compete against their pan-blue camp opponents or candidates who are pan-blue fellow travelers. This recommendation has provoked controversy within the DPP and if it is adopted it will have a profound and far-reaching effect on the party.

If the DPP ratifies the petition, the party will have effectively marginalized itself by drawing a boundary down the middle of the electorate. The party will not only lose ground in the legislative elections but will also have trouble winning support from light blue voters on the other side of that boundary in next year's presidential election.

Despite the many critiques focusing on the issue of polling, what really matters is not the methodology by which the polling is carried out. In fact, the DPP's polling methods are quite mature.

All candidates can send their own people to supervise party polling as it unfolds, building trust in the process. The real problem lies with the thinking behind this proposal. It is a logic of self-limitation that divides voters into the polarized blocs of pan-blue and pan-green voters.

While this mentality will not succeed in keeping so-called ideological outsiders out of the DPP's legislative nomination process, it will succeed in lessening the party's chances of staying in power.

This attempt at purifying the party will only result in distancing it from the the people. In the new single-seat legislative districts, the DPP will need to appeal to mainstream voters to win seats. A rule excluding pan-blue voters will only serve to drive the DPP and mainstream voter sentiment apart.

During the DPP's rise to power, the people became the legitimate source of the power to rule. By limiting primary polling, the DPP is ignoring the trends that led it to victory in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections and to near-parity with the pan-blue camp in the legislature. Success was not achieved with the support of deep green voters alone.

This mentality of seeing everyone as either blue or green is leading the DPP to abandon the principle of wellbeing for the greatest number in favor of the greatest benefits for the fewest.

It is the mentality of vested interests and one that will put the party into conflict with popular opinion.

The legislative elections will be the first test of the new single-member district, double-ballot system. Before campaigning has even begun, incumbent legislators are competing to influence the reconfiguration of electoral districts.

This could lead to gerrymandering, a controversial redistricting of electoral districts to suit a specific candidate. It is also leading potential candidates in all of the proposed 73 districts to compete with other potential candidates from the DPP to move to a district where they expect to have a higher chance of winning.

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