Political analysts were divided as to whether the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) should actively support the party's draft "normal country resolution."
DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun on Aug. 1 unveiled the party's draft "normal country resolution," highlighting the need for the nation to change its name to "Taiwan" to differentiate it from China. It also stipulates that changing the national title to "Taiwan" is a means to prevent China from exploiting the nation's title -- Republic of China (ROC) -- for propaganda purposes.
The draft was a deviation from the party's 1999 Resolutions on Taiwan's Future, which recognizes the nation's title as the ROC and acknowledges the Constitution that DPP members had refused to accept in the past.
Yu's action was widely criticized by some party members, who accused him of failing to put the draft to deliberation during the meeting of the party's main decision-making body -- the Central Standing Committee -- before publicizing it that day.
The draft's statement specifying the need for the nation to write a new constitution to "dispel the myth of a `constitutional one China" also upset Hsieh's campaign office.
During the party's presidential primary in April and May, Hsieh argued that until the ROC Constitution is amended, the DPP administration must acknowledge the ROC Constitution, although it is seriously flawed.
Responding to worries that the draft resolution may negatively affect Hsieh's presidential campaign, Yu said last Tuesday that the DPP had to adopt this strategy to drum up support among grassroots voters before turning its attention to swing voters.
Allen Houng, convener of the Constitutional Reform Alliance, echoed Yu's view.
"Hsieh should be aware that the presidential election in 2008 is a battle to safeguard Taiwan's sovereignty," Houng said.
"Drafting the resolution will help him solidify his sovereignty discourse," he said.
Houng told the Taipei Times that Hsieh would not be able to distinguish himself from his counterpart, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), if the DPP continued to be bound by the 1999 resolution.
"It is not a matter of whether the DPP wants to push the draft or not. The reality is it is not feasible for the nation to use the title ROC in the international arena," Houng said, adding that passing the "normal country resolution" was necessary to aid Taiwan in its international legal battle with China.
Houng said Hsieh's fear that the draft clause would cost him the election only showed he had failed to consider the increasing national support for Taiwanese consciousness.
"I seldom agree with editorials of the [Chinese-language] United Daily News, but I do agree with a recent piece, which said that Hsieh's stance on Taiwanese sovereignty tended to vary under different contexts," Houng said.
Ku Chung-hwa (顧忠華), a political commentator, agreed with Houng, saying that a "normal country" clause, if passed, would "complement" Hsieh's campaign.
"A public consensus on the issue of normalization has been forming in recent years. As such, the draft resolution may not necessarily have a negative impact on Hsieh's candidacy," he said.
Chen Chao-jian (陳朝建), an assistant professor of public affairs at Ming Chuan University, however, advised caution, saying Hsieh could lose swing voters if he gave the draft the "go-ahead."
Chen said that some people view the "normal country resolution" as an extension of the DPP's "Taiwan Independence Clause," which set the DPP's goal as pursuing an independent country named the Republic of Taiwan before passage of the 1999 resolution.
Chen said that Taiwanese voters are not only divided into two opposing extremes, and so Hsieh should also attend to swing voters
"Even if they only account for 5 percent [of eligible voters], he should also try to secure their support," Chen said.
Houng, however, said Hsieh may have a blind spot if he focuses too much on undecided voters, adding that many voters are waiting for him to clarify his stance on Taiwanese sovereignty.
"A politician should be honest rather than ambiguous. He should elaborate on his policies to convince voters. That way, even if he fails in the election, it will be an honorable defeat," Houng said.
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