Sun, Aug 13, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Infighting in the DPP the result of new status

By Chen Mao-hsiung 陳茂雄

It has been rumored that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman-elect Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) will put himself forward as a candidate in the Kaohsiung mayoral election. The pan-green camp would welcome this, believing that Kaohsiung and Tainan are mostly its territory. It is confident that Wu would regret running for Kaohsiung mayor.

However, it is more likely that Wu has set his sights much higher than mayor of Kaohsiung for a second stint. The pan-green camp is unlikely to get its wish in this regard.

In public, the pan-green and pan-blue camps have been letting on that, once the primaries are settled, Kaohsiung and Tainan are essentially the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) to lose.

Consequently, DPP aspirants have been prioritizing primaries in the two cities and going at each other hammer and tongs. It is interesting that everyone has insisted that the race is perfectly amicable, but the louder the protestations of internal harmony, the fiercer the infighting.

It is easy to forget that Tainan and Kaohsiung — especially Kaohsiung — were once KMT strongholds. The first time Wu was elected Kaohsiung mayor — in 1990, before it became a special municipality — he soundly defeated the DPP’s candidate by a margin of more than 90,000 votes.

In 1998, he faced the DPP’s Frank Hsieh (謝長廷). One month before the election, KMT polls showed that Wu was on course for an even bigger victory.

Two weeks later, the KMT circulated a recording of entertainer Pai Ping-ping (白冰冰) denouncing Hsieh — who was a negotiator in a case that ended in the murder of Pai’s daughter — as being something less than human. This turned the electorate against the KMT, and Hsieh was elected, albeit with a modest win.

At the time, the DPP was not only finding it difficult to win the Kaohsiung mayoralty, it was struggling to get even one-third of the seats in the legislature. This all changed: Not only was the party later able to walk the Kaohsiung mayoral elections, it now has control of the legislature.

The reason for this shift was the withdrawal from the political landscape — almost overnight — of the Chen (陳), Wang (王) and Chu (朱) families that headed the main local KMT factions. This led to a redrawing of the political map in Kaohsiung and gave rise to infighting among local lawmakers. This gave the DPP an opening, which it took, quickly shrinking the KMT’s political territory.

The DPP is redrawing its political map as it heads into the mayoral elections, with many people vying for positions on the map for themselves. When the DPP was relatively weak, members other than the main candidates would never have participated in primaries and would usually support one of those officially put forward.

In these elections, in which the primaries are essentially being equated with the election itself, many members have decided to stand, and a few are digging up dirt to make their opponents look bad. The person who wins the primaries will be forced to suppress these scandals come the election.

Internal divisions in the party are starting to show. The DPP is in the same position the KMT was in when its political territory was in flux. The difference is that back then the DPP, despite being weaker than the KMT, had more wind in its sails and fought hard for political gains.

The KMT is not the party it once was and the old guard has lost its appetite for territorial gains. Instead, they are sending relative neophytes into the fray, using elections as a training ground and forgoing the opportunity to take back political territory they once held.

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