President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Sunday attended the launch of the Defend Democracy Safeguard Taiwan Alliance. The alliance, financed by Taiwan independence advocate Koo Kwang-ming (辜寬敏), is attracting people from the independence movement.
It is no coincidence that it was established just two months before the Jan. 11 elections: It aims to shore up support for Tsai’s re-election campaign not just in the nation, but also within the pan-green camp itself.
Deep-green elements are critical of what they see as the Tsai administration’s treading water over the establishment of a Taiwan state, the writing of a new constitution and the abolition of the Republic of China (ROC), as well as ambiguity over the maintenance of the “status quo” in cross-strait relations.
There is also a level of resentment over the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential primary, as some feel that former premier William Lai (賴清德), who is more overtly pro-independence, and as such was favored by the deep-greens, was treated unfairly.
Even though Tsai is leading in the polls against Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate, there is no room for complacency. Unity within the pan-green camp is important if Tsai is to be confident of a victory over the KMT, and this is surely what the deep-green independence advocates want, despite their differences with Tsai and the DPP.
Present at the launch were representatives of the Taiwan Solidarity Union, the Taiwan Statebuilding Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Green Party and the Taiwan Society.
Representatives from the Taiwan Action Party Alliance, the Free Taiwan Party, the Formosa Alliance and the Taiwan National Party did not attend. Although small, those parties have the backing of prominent pan-green figures, including former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), who still enjoy large followings, especially in southern Taiwan.
The Taiwan Action Party Alliance, formed in August and closely associated with Chen, calls in its party charter for Taiwan to become a sovereign, independent nation. It has been working closely with the Formosa Alliance, which was established in April last year to campaign for a Taiwanese independence referendum, formally becoming a political party in July this year.
Lu has criticized the DPP of becoming too much like the KMT and of letting its members down by doing little to promote independence. She called on independence advocates to form an alliance to campaign against the DPP, and had intended to represent the Formosa Alliance in the elections, had she qualified as a candidate.
When it was formed in 2011, the Taiwan National Party had an even more radical agenda, seeking to eventually expel people who identified themselves as Chinese.
Tsai’s hands are tied on many of the issues the deep-greens accuse her of failure.
Koo has been no fan of Tsai, but understands that they share certain core objectives, primarily safeguarding Taiwan’s sovereignty, whether this be, for the time being, under the name of the ROC or Taiwan. He can clearly identify the party that most closely represents his own goals and recognizes the importance of ensuring the KMT does not return to power.
Lai, too, has gone to bat for Tsai. He has the foresight to understand what is better for his vision of the nation’s future in the long term.
It is difficult to see the strategic advantage of independence advocates in hobbling the DPP’s efforts to ensure that the KMT does not win in January. They should rally behind the better alternative, which might even lead the way for Lai to return to an influential post within a DPP administration. They can pick their fights with Tsai later.
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