Tue, May 27, 2014 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Tsai gets a second chance

Former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairperson Tsai ing-wen (蔡英文) was again elected as chairperson on Sunday in a prelude to a two-year period that could determine the future for Tsai, the DPP and the country.

As Tsai prepares to take the helm tomorrow following her two previous terms between 2008 and 2012, supporters and observers will watch closely what she does, hoping that this time the 57-year-old can not only revive the DPP, but also win the presidency in 2016.

During her previous tenure, the academic-turned-politician was able to lead the DPP, which had hit its lowest point in 2008 amid corruption scandals involving former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), back to glory after securing a string of by-election victories and generating momentum so strong that most people expected her to beat President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in the general election.

When that did not happen the DPP appeared to return to constant inner struggles between factions, further exacerbating its disconnection from the public. By the time it began paying attention, the party had been marginalized along with the unpopular Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

That is where Tsai comes in, because if she is unable to turn the DPP around, the party’s hopes of returning to power are finished.

Tsai immediately pledged two areas of attention for the DPP — a more open-minded approach to its work with civic groups and a party led by a younger generation of politicians. The challenge is huge, as young politicians’ ability to manage the party without interference from the factions will be problematic, while civil society has always questioned the DPP’s desire to work with it if the party returns to power.

In the short term, Tsai was right that there would be no honeymoon period after taking over the leadership as the seven-in-one elections are only six months away. The DPP is also going to face strong pressure in the legislature from the KMT, which is planning to push through legislation on the cross-strait service trade pact, the free economic pilot zones and the mechanism monitoring all agreements between Taiwan and China.

On the issue of the economic zones, Greater Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) and Greater Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) appear to give their conditional support to the project in light of potential economic gains for the south, while the DPP’s official position remains vague, although it has voiced serious concerns.

Tsai will also be engaging in other ambitious initiatives, such as constitutional reform. It will perhaps take more than two years to build consensus because Ma opposes reform, while public opinion favors a parliamentary system and the DPP remains divided between a presidential or parliamentary system.

However, no issue will be more important to both Tsai and the DPP than the party’s China policy. Especially to Tsai, whose “Taiwan consensus” initiative doomed her presidential campaign after she was viewed by Washington and Beijing as “empty” and lacking substance, the new round of China policy formulation will be a deciding factor of her future.

The chairperson-elect will have to find a way to address the DPP’s pro-independent position, which has been at the heart of the argument between the party’s liberal and conservative wings. While some proposed to freeze the DPP’s independence charter as an “olive branch” to Beijing, others have said that this is unnecessary.

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