Mon, Mar 22, 2010 - Page 8 News List

Party, policy platforms key for DPP

By Lin Cho-shui 林濁水

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has decided to write a 10-year policy platform, a move that has been applauded, criticized and even ridiculed. Former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) has been the harshest critic, saying that a six-year platform covering the two years up until the next election and the following four-year presidential term would be more than enough. Although she questions the need for a 10-year program, 10 years is, in fact, not very long at all.

German political parties are the most serious when it comes to drawing up party and policy platforms. The German Social Democratic Party’s (SPD) party platform was written in 1826 and is still in use almost 200 years later. It has not been changed because it reflects the party’s fundamental values. However, to keep up with the changing times, the party also formulates a separate policy platform based on the spirit of the basic party platform. In addition, each revision of the policy platform is often used for up to 30 years.

The end of World War II was the start of a new era and a feeling that the future was uncertain. As a result, revision of the policy platform became a contentious issue within the SPD and the adoption of the final version at Bad Godesberg in 1959 was preceded by a week of debate. That version was not revised until 1989. The next ­revision was made in 2007 to keep up to date with changes in global geopolitics.

By comparison, the 10-year time frame set by DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for the party’s policy platform is really quite short.

The SPD’s platform represents one visionary plan for the country’s future. Although such visions invariably involve different time periods in different countries, some will be short, while others can involve issues such as population changes and military armaments, potentially covering decades.

Because policy platforms for German parties often span 20 or 30 years, they reflect a sense of sustainable development that gives the party a stable strategic direction and enables it to maintain public trust, rather than relying too much on short-term planning. However, when candidates from these parties take part in elections, they often have to deal with short-term goals and even immediate public demands; this is why they formulate election programs.

The policy structure thus becomes clear: The basic party platform lists fundamental values; the policy platform stipulates mid to long-term policy goals; and the election program informs short-term election campaigning.

Looking at the DPP today, the 2012 presidential election is still some time away and the party has not even proposed a presidential candidate, so it is unrealistic to draft an election platform by August as has been proposed. The DPP must first solve the two major problems.

First, after the big defeat in 2008, support for the DPP has not picked up, and when in power, the party was too focused on short-term issues, which had a negative impact and blurred its policy goals. The DPP’s wins in the last four by-elections were not so much the result of public support as intense voter dislike of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

Second, since the DPP was formed more than 20 years ago, there have been dramatic changes both in Taiwan and overseas. To solve these two problems, the party urgently needs to formulate a more visionary and attractive mid to long term policy platform based on its basic party platform. This will enable the DPP to determine its strategic direction and consolidate public support.

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