The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), in an apparent attempt to absorb its ally's call for renaming the country and enacting a new constitution, pledged last week to use "Taiwan" in the names of government agencies within two years. As the legislative election enters its final stage, the party's ally, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), led by former president Lee Teng-hui (
The TSU, the more left-wing and Taiwan-centered fundamentalist party, has the enacting of a new constitution and a new name for Taiwan as its main appeal to voters. The DPP, under the guidance of Chen's May 20 inauguration speech, has stuck with a more incremental constitutional re-engineering process in accordance with current game rules.
As the campaign becomes more of an internal finger-pointing by the pan-green camp, the DPP's ability to distinguish its major campaign appeal from the TSU's constitutes its most difficult job. The pie is not large enough to share at the level of grass roots and individual constituencies; sometimes there is no clear line between friend and foe. Taiwan's unique voting system means candidates even compete with contenders from their own party. That sparks intra-party friction, not to mention tight competition with party allies.
The fact that the TSU draws most of its support from southern Taiwan makes the TSU-DPP collaboration even more difficult. It is natural for the smaller TSU to choose a more extreme path to expand support. As the TSU's more independence-driven appeals have shattered the DPP's grassroots voter base, Chen has had no choice but to incorporate a new tactic to enlarge the middle ground and to absorb the TSU's manipulation of the issues concerning a new constitution and renaming the country.
To minimize the TSU's effect, Chen has stressed that he is the defender of Taiwan's identity. He has also highlighted that Taiwan's identity is not tantamount to changing the country's official national title until a majority consensus has been reached by the public. By portraying himself as a "balancer" among pluralist forces in democratic Taiwan, Chen aims to convince voters that compared with the pan-blue camp's slogans of "safeguarding the ROC" and the TSU's "building a new nation," only the DPP can lead the country in a peaceful, stable and prosperous direction.
Chen must do it carefully, without sabotaging DPP-TSU cooperation after the election. Chen must find a balance in building a cooperative and competitive partnership with the TSU, while ensuring a majority of pan-green seats after the Dec. 11 elections. Compared with their counterparts, pan-green supporters enjoy a chance of consolidating a majority in the Legislative Yuan. Nevertheless, questions related to election strategies, each party's campaign appeals and vote distribution will inevitably cause friction within the green camp.
Pre-electoral rhetoric within the green camp is simply a product of Taiwan's unique electoral system. What matters are the results of the legislative poll. Were the pan-green camp to become a de facto majority in the legislature, it would vindicate the intensification of Taiwan consciousness coupled with the March presidential election. With the TSU representing Taiwan-independence fundamentalists, the DPP may move to the middle of the political spectrum and lead national development in a more gradual and peaceful way.
The interests of voters will be best served by a pan-green majority, primarily because it is conducive to promoting good governance, legislative efficiency, stable and institutionalized party competition and, most important, a unified country under the theme of "Taiwan First."
Liu Kuan-teh is a Taipei-based political commentator.