In 2000, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) left the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT.) In 2001, he called on the public to support a new party, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), with the aim of building a legislative majority consisting of 85 legislative seats for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and 35 seats for the TSU, using the slogan “stabilize politics and strengthen Taiwan.”
In the 2001 legislative elections, the TSU’s 8.5 percent of the vote gained them 13 seats. The DPP won 36.6 percent and gained 87 seats, compared with the KMT’s 31.3 percent and 68 seats. This happened because the People First Party (PFP) split the vote and won 46 seats. While the pan-blue camp still had more than half the seats, the DPP was the largest party in the legislature.
The 2004 legislative election was held after then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was re-elected, giving the DPP 89 seats, the KMT 79 seats, the PFP 34 seats and the TSU 12 seats, basically maintaining the situation from 2001.
However, in the 2008 legislative elections, the number of legislative seats was cut to 113 and a new single district double ballot electoral system was introduced. The DPP lost a lot of seats and of the 12 political parties in the running, only the KMT and the DPP gained more than the 5 percent of the vote required to enter the legislature. It is commonly believed this was the result of the two main parties joining hands to amend the Constitution and using the new system to block smaller parties.
These points demonstrate how the influence of various political parties has changed in legislative elections.
If things are examined from the perspective of policy standpoints, it can be seen that during Chen’s two terms, he wavered between a “New Middle Way” and calls for including his view that there is one country on each side of the Taiwan Strait in the Republic of China Constitution.
Lee and the TSU considered rejecting Taiwanese independence in order to find a new way of doing things and amending their party charter to place them on the center-left. However, once smaller parties lose their legislative representation, they also lose the power to influence the overall situation.
During their time in office, the DPP’s China policies swayed back and forth between liberalization and management, and the TSU spared no effort in monitoring them. For example, in 2006, the Taiwan Advocates think tank gathered experts, academics and pro--localization groups for a conference on economic growth that laid down conditions for liberalizing policies regulating direct flights to China, chartered flights, Taiwanese banks opening up in China and Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan.
The TSU showed a responsible attitude and did not oppose things merely for the sake of opposing them, an attitude the party should continue to follow.
In conclusion, the birth of the TSU cannot be separated from Lee’s initial calls for “stabilizing politics and strengthening Taiwan” and it was predestined to have close links with the DPP. One could also say the TSU and the DPP stood to gain by coming together and stood to lose by splitting.
Currently, DPP Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and TSU Chairman Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝) get along well and when it comes to issues like cross-strait policies and national identity, they complement each other. Hopefully the atmosphere of a united pan-green front will return so we can see a green party gain power once more, giving these two pro-localization parties the chance to make history.