Lawmakers in the newly elected legislature officially started their duties last Wednesday. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) holds 40 seats, while its allies in the Taiwan Solidarity Union have three, giving the pan-green camp control of one seat more than one-third of the legislature. The DPP also garnered nearly 46 percent of the vote in the presidential election. These developments provide the possibility for the nature of the nation’s political sysem to move away from the single-party domination of the past four years and toward proper two-party politics.
However, some conditions will have to be met for this to happen. The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) must be willing to set aside its single-party, monopolistic mentality and start to respect civil service and uphold administrative neutrality. It must be willing to give the DPP the responsibility of playing the role of an opposition party so that the DPP can improve its ability to present its policies and aspire to set up a shadow government.
The DPP held the presidency, and thus control of the central government, for eight years until 2008. As the party’s presidential candidate in this year’s election, DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) guided her party when deciding what issues to put forward in the campaign. The party’s 10-year policy platform, published in August last year, is full of good ideas, but unfortunately not enough was done to turn these ideas into concrete policies.
Now Tsai has decided to establish her own office and it will be interesting to observe the three-way interaction between the DPP’s central committee, its legislative caucus and Tsai’s office. After being elected as DPP chairperson four years ago, Tsai helped revive the party up from a low after the 2008 elections and although the result of the presidential election was not the one DPP supporters hoped for, it was an honorable loss and Tsai’s contribution to her party cannot be denied.
She won a lot of support for the party from swing voters who were undecided when the campaign began, especially from among young and middle-class people. She also transformed the DPP’s image into that of a moderate party with a global outlook with the qualities voters expect from a modern political party.
These things were largely lacking under former DPP leaders. If the DPP wishes to return to government in future, it cannot afford to backtrack on these advances. Rather, it should cherish the foundation Tsai has laid and continue to better the improvements she has introduced.
A large number of middle-aged DPP politicians have now taken up seats in the legislature, offering a ray of hope to the party. In addition, there are six DPP city mayors and county commissioners. The party must continue to work hard on managing the localities, especially in Greater Taichung and further north.
In addition, it needs to strengthen its policy formation and presentation, and put forward systematic policy proposals on issues such as China, the economy, government efficiency and social justice, so that people can compare them with those of the other parties. It is the DPP’s duty to do so and it is also an essential way forward for the development of the nation’s democracy.
If the DPP is to play such a role, it will have to keep doing its homework. The DPP’s Policy Research and Coordinating Committee, which could be considered the party’s think tank, and Tsai’s office — once it is up and running — will both have a heavy responsibility in this respect.