With the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) busy with nominations for the year-end special municipality elections, the discussion among a mixed group of academics, politicians and social activists about establishing a political group went unnoticed.
The groups and individuals involved included former DPP chairman Lin Yi-xiong (林義雄), Academia Sinica research fellow Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), activist group Citizen 1985 as well as dozens of civic groups, former Judicial Reform Foundation executive director Lin Feng-jeng (林峰正) said.
Lin added that they declined to establish a political party — at least not in the form of the Leninist party structure adopted by the KMT and the DPP — and remained suspicious of the necessity of participation in national elections. They also lack a name and a timetable for group establishment. The at-large seats in the 2016 legislative elections could be a reasonable goal for the group down the road, but it is still too early to tell.
Perhaps that was why political parties did not pay serious attention to the developing story on the group and the implications behind it. The campaign itself is unprecedented and highly complicated. No other political coalition in the history of democratic Taiwan has tried to integrate so many individuals and groups with diverse interests, causes, ideology and political aspirations.
The only political party currently focusing on a non-political ideology is the Green Party of Taiwan (GPT), which primarily focuses on environmental issues. Despite the party intending to make itself a platform for members of other civic groups who are interested in elections, the initiative has not been successful, as the GPT has been struggling to survive.
The absence of social activists’ participation in politics could be attributed to two factors: First, these activists traditionally prefer to keep a distance from politics, as the non-stop debates about independence versus unification could divert attention away from their causes, be it environmental protection or labor rights. Second, non-governmental organizations have had a close working relationship with the DPP, or the dangwai (黨外, “outside the party”) before the DPP was established in 1986, leaving the work in the political arena to the party.
Therefore, the question that must be asked is why such activists abandoned their previous position and decided to take the matter into their own hands. The answer does not lie in the KMT, with the party’s consistent opposition to almost every progressive cause that has been accepted by the majority of the public.
The notable phenomenon was the group’s distancing from the DPP, which has been aware of its disconnection with the movement, but failed to rebuild the bond. Disappointment with the DPP can be observed in the party’s persistent low support rate — despite the DPP repeatedly claiming that it has fared better than the KMT — and the popularity of Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), a National Taiwan University Hospital physician who has been leading all pan-green aspirants for the Taipei mayoral election in opinion polls and prefers to run as an independent.
The planned political coalition can keep under the political parties’ radar until its official establishment and an announcement of its intention to run in national elections. The group should strike fear into the heart of the DPP and serve as a warning and a reminder to the party of what it has lost along the way.