Although the DPP's plans to allow the president to act as party chairman won't benefit President Chen Shui-bian (
The DPP's central headquarters resolved last Tuesday to put the reform plan before its National Delegation Assembly to be held in April. The plan states that when the DPP holds the presidency, the president will automatically assume the chairmanship, and while in opposition, the party chairman will be determined through a direct vote by party members.
In explaining the move, many party and faction leaders said that although the DPP managed to assume power 15 years after its inception, the party's administration has faced a series of problems over the past two years. These problems include poor communication between the party and the Cabinet, a breakdown in the party's decision-making mechanism and limited prospects for the political careers of the party's elite.
"The issue of allowing a DPP president to head the party didn't stem from President Chen Shui-bian's personal will, but was a trial balloon sent out by party factions after discussions," said Chen Sung-shan (陳淞山), a commissioner of the Civil Protection and Training Committee.
According to Chen Sung-shan, even though the idea was once widely considered to be a backward move that would turn the DPP into another authoritarian KMT, he later came to realize that this was a political move initiated by the party leadership to "prevent the DPP from perishing because of President Chen."
Hong Chi-chang (洪奇昌), a DPP lawmaker and leader of the New Tide Faction, described the feelings of depression experienced by various factions since Chen became president two years ago. In their eyes, Chen has shared almost no political capital with party members, but on the other hand, no one is willing to take charge of party decision-making and reforms, leaving everything for Chen to decide.
"The DPP has become more and more like a bystander and a nomination machine for primaries and elections. To solve these problems, President Chen must be involved in the party. The best way to accomplish this is to give the chairmanship to A-bian. If the situation is not improved, the DPP will die," Hong said.
Chen Sung-shan also stressed that the president has successfully carried out his will and dominated party affairs, but the role of the party has diminished so much that it is now weaker than a Cabinet ministry, and the party's founding principles and guidelines have become more and more irrelevant.
"Precisely because A-bian and the DPP are getting further apart, A-bian can brush aside the party's baggage, such as de-linking himself from the party's Taiwan independence platform, and formulate his own agenda on China. A-bian may be able to walk his own `new middle way,' but the party's values are disappearing and its ideals are losing their power to bind party members together," said Chen Sung-shan.
"In the future, A-bian may even choose his vice president from the business circle without any consideration from the party."
Party officials said bringing the president into the DPP fold would help bolster the party's waning influence.
"So the DPP must re-establish its system and the best design would be to pull A-bian back to the party," Chen quoted DPP Secretary-General Yu Ying-lung (游盈隆) as saying.