Thu, Jun 07, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Su balancing party unity and reform

By Lin Cho-shui 林濁水

Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) has been elected chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), easily defeating his four rival candidates. However, as DPP chairman, he will have a lot of tricky problems to deal with.

Just about everyone is calling on Su to give top priority to seeking party unity, and he has solemnly pledged to do so. Indeed, even during the campaign for party chair, he departed from his usual overbearing manner and displayed a gracious demeanor. That is an admirable achievement for Su.

People are hoping that Su will have the vision to propose convincing forward-looking policies on cross-strait and economic issues. They would also like to see him handle relations with jailed former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in an appropriate manner, and hope that he would bring about a new wave of reforms in the DPP. Su’s efforts in these respects can be seen from the things he said during the three policy debates between the candidates for the DPP chair.

However, Su’s biggest problem is maintaining unity while at the same time promoting reform. To maintain unity, he needs to look after all kinds of vested interests, but to promote reform he has to persuade a lot of people to give up vested interests, both tangible ones, such as party posts, and abstract ones, like values and policy directions.

The campaign for the DPP chair saw four candidates ganging up against one, which shows that Su’s support among party members is far from solid. The most obvious difference between Su and the other candidates was over the question of whether Chen should be granted amnesty. During the campaign, Chen urged the other candidates to join hands in resisting Su, and Chen’s supporters went around saying it would be bad for the DPP if Su were elected chairman.

That is not all. Chen’s supporters entered the fray as Taiwanese independence radicals, calling on all pro-independence proponents to form an alliance.

Some of Chen’s allies voiced strong support for sticking to a “one China” Constitution, as advocated by former DPP chairman Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良) and former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), but then these two camps converged to attack Su on the Chen amnesty issue.

The real drama came when they failed to bring Su down, and it became increasingly likely that he would serve as party chairman for between two and four years. When that happened, Chen was the first to come out in support of Su. Now Chen and his supporters are following Su’s example in calling for unity and pouring cold water on the idea of nominating former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) as the party’s candidate in the 2016 presidential election.

Su’s task of building party unity will not get easier, and it might even get harder. All the other candidates called for an amnesty for Chen, so if any one of them had been elected, the DPP would have been inextricably bound up with Chen. Su is not in favor of an amnesty, so one would think that when he was elected, the DPP would not face the prospect of being tied up this way. However, Chen’s supporters are now warning that party unity depends entirely on how hard Su tries to get Chen out of jail. They clearly intend to keep hounding Su’s every move. Handling this will be a test of Su’s wisdom and determination.

Su has written quite a lot recently about cross-strait issues, and he deserves credit for his efforts in this regard. However, that does not mean that his ideas, as his supporters claim, have won widespread acceptance and approval. While he has given expression to a lot of ideas, some of them are contradictory.

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