Mon, Apr 09, 2007 - Page 8 News List

The DPP should keep its winning poll formula

By Lee Wen-chung 李文忠

Over the years, one thing that has distinguished the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) from Taiwan's other political parties has been its fair and democratic primary system, where the losers have always accepted their defeat graciously.

This primary system has meant the DPP has been able to foster new talent, grow stronger and cultivate new generations of outstanding politicians.

The nomination of the DPP's candidates for legislative districts is based on a system where 70 percent of the total is taken from a public opinion poll and 30 percent from a party vote, while the legislator-at-large list is put together based on 60 percent from a public opinion poll and 40 percent from a party member vote.

When taking a look at the changes made to the DPP's primary nomination system over the years, we see a trend toward increasing the weight given to opinion polls. This has strengthened the DPP's ability to elect its best candidates, and it was also one of the factors behind the DPP's ascent to power.

Now that DPP members who wish to run in the legislative primaries have completed their registrations, some in the party have advocated amending the party's primary system. This is something that not even the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) would dare or be able to do. The DPP has built a system to be proud of, but that system has now come under attack. What's more, a good number of those leading this criticism are part of the DPP elite.

Although a plan to hold an extraordinary meeting of the DPP's national congress to look into amending the nomination procedure never went past the discussion stage, the proposed amended procedure for the use of opinion polls in the nomination of the legislator-at-large list -- which has been formulated to filter out pan-blue voters -- would eliminate the opinions of 85 percent of the respondents.

In other words, it would remove not only the opinions of staunch pan-blue voters, but also those of all undecided voters and even some pan-green supporters. If the DPP's legislative candidates are nominated in this way, then one must wonder how they will be able to win 50 percent of the vote in a single-member district.

So why only poll 15 percent of voters? The DPP started with 15 percent of the vote 20 years ago, went through the hardship of Taiwan's democratization and finally won over 50 percent of the vote. The party is right to thank the 15 percent of loyal voters who have been supporting the DPP for the past two decades. These supporters ultimate hope has always been that the DPP, Taiwan's local party, would come to power and lead Taiwan forward.

But according to the petition to change the polling procedure, not only would pan-blue voters be filtered out, but also moderate pan-green voters who were key to the DPP winning power. If implemented, this new polling system would weaken the competitiveness of the DPP's candidates and bring down the localized regime.

I joined the democratic movement because of the KMT's authoritarian rule, because I despised the KMT for the illusion it put forth that it represented China, and because I believed in Taiwan, democracy and reform.

Now many DPP members want to destroy the party's primary nomination system, the system that the party relied upon for its growth and the system that produced a candidate able to win a presidential election. This situation is deeply disappointing. If even people like me, who have dedicated their life to the party, are so utterly disappointed with the DPP, then how will the party be able to attract the next generation of voters?

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