Wed, Jan 16, 2008 - Page 8 News List

DPP needs a new way of defining localization

By Chen Fang-ming 陳芳明

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has suffered a serious defeat. The loss was inevitable; the signs were already in place four years ago.

Since his re-election in 2004, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has personally stumped for the DPP in major and minor elections, with little success. Yet the DPP leadership ignored such warning signs. Instead, it upheld the so-called pro-localization banner to test its members and the public alike. Both the nomination and campaign strategies were thus flawed, resulting in a resounding defeat.

Taken hostage by fundamentalists, the DPP has tried the loyalty of its members over the last two years, causing a rift between pro-localization and non-localization factions. Self-proclaimed pro-localization leaders emphasized such divisions during party primaries. The "most united" and "patriotic" members of the DPP dubbed 11 party heavyweights the "11 Bandits" (十一寇). They called DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) "China Khim" (中國琴) and Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman Hung Chi-chang (洪奇昌) "China-bound Chang" (西進昌). As the "democratic," "progressive" party cleansed itself of dissidents, it became a mockery to Taiwan's democratic movement, with detrimental results.

For the DPP, qualification for public posts became based on political ideology rather than ability -- criteria some of its members cannot even reach, not to mention those who are outside the party. The party's nomination policy and exclusiveness has stunned Taiwanese society.

The DPP miscalculated its campaign strategy based on such a philosophy. Chen took pro-localization as the campaign theme and questioned the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) stance regarding the issue. To hype up the sense of crisis, China's threat was exaggerated and the election became a confrontation between unification versus independence forces, or even a battle between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

The slogan of pro-localization does not make things happen. The election was like a no-confidence vote, and a strong answer to the question of whether Taiwan should focus on political or economic reform. In the 21st century, every country is striving to boost its economic competitiveness while considering how best to improve the quality of life. Too bad for Taiwan that its leader at the beginning of this century still thinks he's living in the last.

While it is the DPP's fault that Chen was allowed to lead the campaign, no one else dared shoulder the responsibility.

In his eight years as president, Chen has achieved little, except furthering division. His inauguration as DPP chairman in October was tantamount to a declaration of the party's failure. With no significant achievements, Chen could only harp on about localization.

And equating Chen to the pro-localization force is an insult to pro-localization. Can the pro-localization movement tolerate corruption and anti-democracy? Can it eliminate its own party members? Still, in the name of pro-localization, wrongs that should not have occurred in a democratic society have come to pass one after another.

Every political party that stands the test of public scrutiny and anyone who recognizes Taiwan's democracy can be considered pro-local. The DPP will not be able to make a comeback if it does not understand this fact. As a native regime that created the KMT's new-found absolute majority, can the DPP reflect on itself? It is alienated from pro-localization, but being trapped in its own vision of pro-localization, it has yet to realize this fact. This is perhaps the most crucial lesson to be learned from the defeat.

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