Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was unable to defeat President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in Saturday’s election, despite her own outstanding qualities, the support of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Nobel prize winner Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲), the success of the “three little pigs” fund-raising campaign and Ma’s own questionable record in office. This goes to show how powerful the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) continues to be and just how necessary it is to rein it in. The KMT has money and organization, and it will stop at nothing to get to what it wants.
From her campaign rallies it appeared that Tsai was building up a startling amount of momentum. The atmosphere at them was quite moving. In the end, though, it just did not translate into enough votes and the KMT’s sway, inherited from its heyday and apparently bolstered by petty bribes, brainwashing and concessionary policies targeted at specific groups in society, was just too strong.
People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) has participated in three presidential elections, as either a presidential or vice presidential candidate. He has failed each time.
The first time Soong sought to take advantage of the popularity he built up from his time as governor of Taiwan province, beating the KMT’s nominee, Lien Chan (連戰), but he was still pipped at the post by the DPP’s candidate, Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). The second time he ran as Lien Chan’s vice presidential candidate. This time the prize was smaller, but he did have access to the KMT’s money and organization. The two of them challenged Chen, but were again defeated.
In this last election, Soong chose to go it alone, but without the backing of the KMT. It was always going to be an uphill struggle, one even he knew he could not possibly win.
The DPP went into this election with an improved image and a candidate with outstanding academic competence. The fact that it ultimately proved unequal to the challenge is frustrating, but all one can do is wait for the next opportunity.
The KMT is going to find it very difficult to find someone to step into Ma’s shoes for the next election in 2016. Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), now vice-president-in-waiting, thinks he is the man for the job, and sees himself as Ma’s natural successor. However, he does not have a great image and lacks the “halo” that Ma has built up over the years. In addition, he is not considered particularly “orthodox,” and so it remains to be seen whether a new generation of KMT leaders will put up with him.
The DPP has managed to win two presidential elections. Neither party has yet successfully prevented an incumbent president from securing a second term. If the DPP puts forward a good candidate at the next election, it will stand a better chance of winning.
Before its next attempt to win the presidency, the DPP will need to bolster its organization, cultivate talent within the party and strengthen its presence in the legislature. It managed to increase its number of legislative seats in this election, pushing out some of the more noxious KMT politicians.
Anyway, the public has chosen. The DPP may have failed in its attempt to get back into government, but it did show that it can attract 6 million votes and get 40 seats in the legislature. That is something neither Ma, China nor the US can take lightly.