Thu, Jun 13, 2019 - Page 8 News List

DPP should hold a fair presidential primary

By Lin Jin-jia 林進嘉

Paul Lin (林保華) is a columnist for the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) who is widely admired for upholding democracy and resolutely opposing communism.

Regarding the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) ongoing preparations for a presidential primary, Lin has called for the pan-green camp to stand united so that there might still be a Taiwan-centric government following the presidential and legislative elections in January next year.

Lin is right, but I have some reservations about his column in the Liberty Times on Wednesday last week, titled “Opinion polls are not ballots — the part should defer to the whole.”

“Opinion polls are only for reference. Ideally, they should be conducted in such a way as to fully reflect public opinion and win votes, not just for someone to get through to the next round, because what is the point of winning the primary if you lose the presidential election?” he wrote.

The eventual purpose of a primary is indeed the presidential election that follows.

However, a victory in the primary now does not necessarily mean a victory in next year’s presidential election, because so many factors could change between now and then.

The most important thing about the primary is that it should be conducted fairly so that the DPP can pick the person who is in the strongest position to go into battle for the party.

A more crucial point for winning the presidential election is that the whole party must unite behind whoever wins the primary. The loser should wholeheartedly support the winner, but so far, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has not promised to do so.

Lin supports Tsai’s bid to serve a second term, which is fair enough, because Tsai has completed some reforms.

However, Lin wrote in his article that Tsai’s centrist line makes her more capable than her rival, former premier William Lai (賴清德), of attracting centrist voters who do not support “urgent” Taiwanese independence, but do support independence as the Republic of China.

This is doubtful. Numerous public opinion polls have shown that while Tsai has more support than Lai within the pan-green camp, Lai has stronger support among swing voters.

Lai has shown over the years that the “pragmatic Taiwanese independence” he calls for does not mean “urgent” independence, but popular self-determination, meaning that all Taiwanese should collectively decide their future.

Lin also wrote about procedural justice. In March 2011, then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) proposed a legal amendment to introduce absentee voting, because he thought it would help him get re-elected in 2012. Many commentators opposed such an ad hoc amendment that could make elections less fair.

In his April 27, 2011, Liberty Times column titled, “We must not contravene procedural justice,” Lin accused Ma of trying to change the rules of the game by introducing absentee voting, and combining presidential and legislative elections so that he could be re-elected.

This is comparable with the way the DPP’s “democratic mechanism” has been working recently.

The DPP’s Central Executive Committee has introduced procedural delays when the contest is already under way and changed the party’s method of conducting opinion polls.

Lin should speak out on the questions of procedural justice that arise from these maneuvers.

Lin Jin-jia is an attending psychiatrist at the Chi Mei Medical Center in Tainan.

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