When President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said that she had launched many effective policies in the past three years, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) was quick to disagree.
Instead, he demanded that Tsai deliver her “political report card” and define her “Taiwanese values.”
Ko’s action was probably not just a simple attack on the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), but could well be a veiled attempt to maintain his dominance amid complex competition within Taiwan’s “third force.”
As head of the “white” camp, Ko probably estimated that his chances of winning the presidential election next year are not too high.
Instead, he has formed the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) to accumulate political resources, focus on the legislature (where perhaps neither the pan-blue nor the pan-green camp will secure a majority next year), set his sights on the presidential election in 2024 and seek external assistance to increase his strength.
However, Ko’s revelation that he declined Hon Hai Precision Industry Co founder Terry Gou’s (郭台銘) invitation to be the tycoon’s running mate makes it clear that although they need each other, each has his own opinions and is very bossy.
Temporary cooperation might be possible, but making it permanent would not be easy.
Lately, Ko instead seems to have been searching for the strongest “hired hand” to run for president on his behalf next year, and while doing so, seems to have become marginalized by the public’s focus on Gou and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).
While he was searching for the strongest hired hand, a fire has broken out in Ko’s own backyard.
Just 20 days after the TPP was established, more than 100,000 Facebook fans stopped following him, several key New Power Party members that used to endorse him switched allegiance to Tsai and many young supporters also turned away.
Perhaps Ko can blame the establishment of the TPP for affecting the “pureness” of his white camp, but is his political alliance with Gou and Wang not a bigger stain?
This reflects the greatest problem for a third force stuck between the blue and green camps. Today, Ko’s strongest external assistance comes from Gou and Wang, both with a background in the blue camp.
Gou is a wealthy, China-friendly tycoon, and Wang is a traditional politician closely connected to local factions. They might be able to help Ko attract votes from the blue camp, but this could also be a double-edged sword likely to scare off young anti-China supporters who are hostile toward the rich, and sick of the blue and green camps’ factionalism and closed-door politics.
By publicly challenging Tsai, Ko hopes that his questioning of her administration’s performance will shake her supporters who have been blinded by a “sense of national doom” and encourage his young supporters and those from the green camp to return.
More importantly, he must consolidate his leading role in the white camp. If the TPP or the white camp continue to be “colored” by Gou and Wang and perhaps even driven toward the blue camp, Ko might see himself embarrassed as he fails to gain an advantage and suffers a loss in the process.
As for Tsai, she could not care less about Ko’s political report card and is likely to sit back and watch as the white camp loses its purity.
Li Chia-wei is an associate research fellow at the National Policy Foundation.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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