Thu, Nov 15, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: The temptations of defection

One of the notable changes of the new electoral system is how political parties played their cards close to their chest on the identity of candidates.

It was not until this week -- the week that nominations for local electorates and legislators-at-large are to be sent to the Central Election Commission -- that the parties laid out their lists of nominees.

This is partly the product of tortuous negotiations within the parties and between parties of the same "color" -- green or blue -- but it is mostly to reduce the risk of spurned candidates running against their former party and splitting the vote.

But the strategy has not been watertight, and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has capitalized -- or so it thinks -- on a small number of defections from the pan-blue camp by being the last to name its own candidates.

The two people of interest are incumbent legislators who have fled the pan-blue camp: Lee Sen-zong (李顯榮), formerly of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), and Chiu Chuang-liang (邱創良), formerly of the People First Party (PFP).

Lee and Chiu left their parties because they failed to secure nominations for the downsized legislature -- a problem that, in national terms, has led to less tension than might have been predicted.

Lee is running in Taipei County's 1st district, which covers the northwest coastal townships, including Tamsui (淡水) and Bali (八里). Chiu will fly the DPP flag in Taoyuan County's 6th district, which covers Pingjhen City (平鎮) and Longtan Township (龍潭).

Both are districts that are nominally pro-blue camp, and the DPP is hoping that the pair's local connections and other residual support will threaten the KMT candidates.

In Chiu's case, this may be rather optimistic. In the 2004 legislative elections, Chiu's support -- in terms of vote volume -- was concentrated elsewhere in the county. Longtan and Pingjhen were only his fifth and sixth most supportive centers.

Lee's prospects may be more comforting, as he outpolled next year's KMT candidate, Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇), in half of the townships covered by the new electorate.

The DPP's rationale is that it is better to run defectors in nominally safe pan-blue seats than to put up ideologically sound locals with negligible support. And given that the DPP will struggle to compete with the KMT in these legislative polls, strategists will say that pragmatism amounts to wisdom.

But by accepting these defectors and immediately slotting them into legislative contention, the DPP is sending out the message that pan-blue legislators who have spent years of their lives obstructing good governance can find a home in the party for their personal gain at the expense of developing talent among the party faithful.

Given that the DPP still seems to be quite clueless as to how it can break the KMT's grip on government at the township level, such measures can only treat the symptoms of the problem, and even then the DPP must depend on randomly occurring disputes within the pan-blue camp.

This is not a strategy with vision. The DPP must look to develop local party infrastructure in places that do not support the party as well as those that do, otherwise its legislative campaigns -- and overall accountability of the legislature -- will remain handicapped for years to come.

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