“Taiwan Next,” the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) campaign slogan in last year’s presidential election, remains fresh in some people’s minds, but the real issue to pay attention to, in terms of domestic political development, is “DPP Next.” Specifically, what should happen to the party now.
The next presidential election is a little over two years away, but the DPP’s factionalism, which seems never to have gone away, has left supporters and observers scratching their heads, wondering what will happen to the party, which is desperate to regain power.
Ironically, while it is President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) who loves to utter words of solidarity, this characteristic could become more important to the DPP than its rival in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
Factionalism — which should have been brought to an end after a party resolution in 2006 to dissolve all party factions, prohibiting them from establishing offices, recruiting members and raising funds — flared up again as the party began conducting primaries for the seven-in-one local elections next year.
The elections will be the largest in Taiwan’s history and should serve as a strong indicator of DPP and KMT prospects for the next presidential election.
Before these two elections, the DPP is scheduled to elect a new chair in May next year.
The complexity and connected nature of the three elections is why each faction has been attempting to gain an upper hand by placing as many candidates as possible in the races. It is also why they could care less about party image.
The DPP’s structure has changed since 2006, going from factions of group leadership to alliances led by prominent politicians. DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), former chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and a pair of former premiers, Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃), now each head their own alliance, which operate in the form of an office or a foundation. The New Tide (新潮流) is the only alliance preserving the old format of group leadership.
The New Tide, arguably the most powerful, disciplined and financially competitive group, has secured several candidacies for mayoral and commissioner elections, raising factional tensions.
Good examples of this are the mayoral nomination battles in Taipei City and New Taipei City (新北市). Yu won the nomination in New Taipei City, but only after New Taipei City DPP director Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) bitterly withdrew from the race, citing unfairness.
In Taipei, controversies surrounding a surprisingly large group of five aspirants, including National Taiwan University Hospital physician Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), are constantly in the headlines, with arguments over primary regulations and claims that the primaries are simply a “proxy war” between Su and Tsai.
Since opposition parties can only prove themselves capable of governance by winning elections, the DPP should bear in mind that gaining public support in any election is a result of setting out a vision for the country that improves people’s livelihoods and upholds social justice.
The public could care less about which DPP subgroup secures the most candidates and wins the chairperson election, but they could wonder whether they should support a group of politicians who place personal and factional gains before the public interest.