Sun, Nov 12, 2006 - Page 3 News List

United now, DPP to face real test in municipal polls


The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has forged an opinion on corruption charges against President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), temporarily quelling factional strife. But it is the public opinion that will be expressed in the Taipei and Kaohsiung municipal elections next month that will be the real test for the party.

Observers said that if the governing party is trounced in both cities, an even greater political storm will likely follow.

Analysts both inside and outside of the DPP are looking at the mayoral and city council elections in the nation's two largest cities as a "defining battle" for key players in domestic politics.

According to DPP pundits, if the party loses both cities, meaning that both Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and Chen Chu (陳菊) are defeated in Taipei and Kaohsiung, DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun might have to resign and Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) could be forced to step down or do so voluntarily, leaving three of the DPP's four top people -- the fourth being Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) -- without a political foothold to secure the DPP nomination for the 2008 presidential election.

"In that case, both the DPP leadership and the Presidential Office will be facing immense pressure," a DPP insider said.

Given recent precedents, the DPP has no reason to be optimistic about the Dec. 9 municipal elections.

Last year's "three-in-one" local government elections saw the party suffer a major setback, owing to the Kaohsiung rapid transit scandal in which former Presidential Office deputy secretary-general Chen Che-nan (陳哲男) and Kaohsiung city government officials were indicted on corruption charges.

The indictment last week of first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) and several aides on charges of embezzlement, forgery and perjury in connection with an investigation into alleged misuse of a special "state affairs fund" has rocked the DPP again, forcing it to hold two lengthy executive committee meetings that produced a resolution to back up the scandal-ridden president until a ruling is made on his wife in the first trial.

All dissident views in the party have for the moment been suppressed, so that the DPP is like a pressure cooker which, according to senior Legislator Lin Cho-shui (林濁水), is "waiting for its time."

Indeed, for the party, trying to win the two municipal elections takes precedence over all else, which is why right after reaching a decision to stand with the president in his crisis last Wednesday, Yu immediately led senior party executives a couple of days later to Kaohsiung to help Chen Chu "stabilize the situation" and hopefully regain momentum for her mayoral campaign.

A senior politician described the nation's politics as "changing so fast it might be easier to predict a typhoon's direction." After the anti-Chen Shui-bian campaign fizzled out, party leaders thought they had weathered the storm and were ready to stage good campaigns in Taipei and Kaohsiung.

Little did they expect that Prosecutor Eric Chen would come up with a damning indictment implicating Chen and his wife, hurtling the DPP into the "gravest crisis since its founding" 20 years ago.

Now, Taiwan is watching to see whether the Dec. 9 election results will be the straw that breaks the DPP camel's back.

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