The by-election to choose a new Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leader is not only an image-building campaign to restore the DPP's democratic image, but also a turning point that will decide how much influence President Chen Shui-bian (
The first, boisterous televised debate among the three candidates -- former Presidential Office secretary-general Yu Shyi-kun, Legislator Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮) and former Changhua County commissioner Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠) -- was held last Saturday afternoon. In addition to elaborating on their campaign platforms, the three candidates criticized their opponents. A large proportion of the debate focused on defending or attacking Chen's leadership of the DPP.
In contrast to Yu's defense of Chen, Wong and Tsai took more challenging attitudes toward the president. Wong even suggested that the current administration may be the biggest threat to the DPP's credibility the party has ever faced.
Although it is not unusual for DPP members to criticize fellow party members to articulate their political beliefs, it was surprising that Wong, a female political veteran known for her moderate attitude, leveled blunt rhetoric at Chen.
She said the DPP has become a party in which "what the president says, goes."
Political commentators said that Wong's outspokenness was actually being powered by former DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄), who was also the key person who had persuaded Wong to run for the party chairmanship.
Lin has publicly announced his support of Wong.
"It shows that this former chairman is not unmoved by the DPP's ups and downs and still cares about the party's development," said Chen Yi-shen (
"An intransigent idealist like Lin will not be absent from the 2008 presidential election, whether he becomes a presidential candidate or as an influential figure," Chen Yi-shen said.
Hsu Yung-ming (
This reveals Lin's intention to run in the 2008 presidential election, Hsu said.
"Lin does not want Chen Shui-bian to have too much control over the party and hopes there is some power that will be able to balance the president's oligarchic influence," Hsu said.
Although Lin has endorsed Wong, Yu has the best chance of winning, since he has been enjoying a good relationship with the president, and the biggest faction in the DPP also seems to support Yu.
"If Yu wins the by-election, one thing that is certain is that Chen Shui-bian will not become a `lame duck,' even temporarily. Although it is almost certain who will be the new chairperson, the whole campaign process could demonstrate the DPP's democratic nature to the public," Hsu said.