The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was defeated in last month’s presidential and legislative elections, but now it needs to move on from the loss and get down to business. It needs to pull itself together and start behaving like an opposition party. It owes it to the more than 6 million people who cast their votes for DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).
Here are four of the things Taiwanese are worrying about these days:
First, on his first day in office, Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) irresponsibly declared that the leanness-enhancing agent ractopamine is not toxic. Presumably this statement was meant to pave the way for imports of US beef, but people are still concerned about the issue.
Second, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government wants to speed up negotiations for a US-Taiwan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement and people are asking what effect such a pact would have on sectors such as animal husbandry, machinery, steel and textiles.
Third, the Ministry of Finance will soon put forward tax reforms, but will it really be possible to cut taxes for business owners and raise salaries for employees as promised?
Fourth, the Council for Economic Planning and Development will soon start setting up model free economic zones. It sounds like a big gift for southern Taiwan, but will people really get to enjoy the benefits?
Issues relating to the interests of the majority of Taiwanese keep popping up, but the DPP is nowhere to be seen. The country’s main opposition party has been so passive and inactive recently that people may soon begin to wonder whether it still exists.
Why has the DPP disappeared? The answer is that the party has become incapable of guiding progressive values in Taiwan.
In this respect, the main things that count are political, economic and social forces, the changing interactions between these three forces, and the role of non-profit organizations and campaigns. Things that need to be discussed include class relations, national identity, globalization, cross-strait relations and how these factors are affecting the development of social forces in Taiwan.
From its inception until it took up the reins of government in 2000, the DPP has had plenty of connections with workers, farmers, small business owners and social movement groups. It stood for a variety of issues, such as ending martial law, lifting the ban on opposition parties and newspapers, radical reform of the legislature and National Assembly, direct election of all lawmakers, social rights, including those of workers, farmers and women, and environmental rights. All of these standpoints represented progressive values in Taiwan and they found expression in the DPP’s “1999 Resolution on Taiwan’s Future.”
Although the DPP became more distanced from social and campaigning groups after it got into power, it was able to continue to guide progressive values. This is because it took up many of the issues that those groups stood for and implemented them as government policies — things like the National Pension (國民年金), the reform of work hours and the Labor Pension Act (勞工退休金條例).
Even the “Two Trillion and Twin Star Development Plan”, promoting semiconductors, color-image displays, digital content and biotechnology, that the DPP government launched in 2002 to meet the needs of industrial restructuring, to a large extent promoted social as well as economic interests. Of course, the corruption case against two-term DPP president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) badly tarnished the party’s clean and progressive image and caused it to be voted out of office in 2008.