Tue, Mar 09, 2010 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan headed for disastrous time

By Lin Cho-shui 林濁水

With the fight for the five special municipalities about to get under way, both the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) are having a hard time finding suitable candidates.

Competition between DPP hopefuls is fierce in the south and the supply of talented potential candidates is not a problem. In central and northern Taiwan, however, DPP members are asking why there is only one strong candidate, former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌). The KMT forced Taipei County Commissioner Chou Hsi-wei (周錫瑋) to withdraw from the Sinbei City (新北市) mayoral election to increase its chances for election victory in the north. However, down south the KMT is worse off than the DPP and cannot field any candidates of Su’s caliber.

Some accuse the DPP of failing to nurture potential future leaders, but I feel this is unfair. Back in 2005, the DPP used the mayoral and county commissioner elections to arrange for younger DPP members to take over. The DPP brought forward Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) and Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) in Taichung, Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) in Taipei and Lo Wen-chia (羅文嘉) and Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) in Kaohsiung.

Their experience, skills and reputation are not inferior to the prospective candidates for Greater Kaohsiung and Greater Tainan. Instead, it is the wide divergence between the north and south and corruption cases involving senior officials that have ruined their chances. This is why Su is the only possible DPP candidate in both central and northern Taiwan. In addition, DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) popularity is rising rapidly — even leading President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in approval ratings. However, she lacks the basis Su has built after serving as county commissioner twice, which is why she may not be competitive enough to run in a mayoral election yet.

In 2005, the DPP brought younger members that had served as elected officials into the government, but, at best, they served as deputy ministers or agency heads. It is fitting for someone of that background to participate in mid-level elections, and it is a good way to nurture talent. Who could have guessed that both KMT and DPP nominations would begin at the level of minister, premier and deputy premier?

When the KMT lost power, Jason Hu (胡志強), who had the potential to serve as premier, ran for Taichung mayor, which was well received. Therefore, the DPP, which lost so miserably in 2008, has no choice but to use high-profile candidates in the upcoming elections. However, it is odd that the KMT would force an unwilling Deputy Premier Eric Chu (朱立倫) to run in Sinbei City, give serious consideration to Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and try to force incumbent ministers to stand in the south. This shows how the KMT is willing to sacrifice central government for local elections and the ludicrous way this distorts the procedures for training and finding suitable candidates.

The special municipality elections are a prelude to the 2012 presidential election. Once the special municipalities are established, they will become very important politically. They will have an overall population greater than all the current 17 cities and counties, and economically the combined municipalities will account for more than two-thirds of the nation’s economic power.

This is why the KMT and the DPP must field their strongest candidates to give themselves the best chance of winning these elections.

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