At first glance, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) appeared to have claimed an overwhelming victory by pushing through the DPP Central Executive Committee's approved version of the "normal country" resolution last Sunday during the party's national congress.
However, political analysts have commented that Hsieh merely brought about a state of "temporary stability" among the DPP's factions, not an outright win.
"I don't think Hsieh has fully taken control of the party," analyst Allen Houng (洪裕宏) said.
Houng said Hsieh gained the upper hand at the DPP congress only because President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) chose to take Hsieh's side -- and not that of outgoing chairman Yu Shyi-kun -- on the resolution issue.
Supporters of Hsieh and Yu had engaged in a dispute on whether the final version of the party's "normal country" resolution should specify that "Taiwan" was the only proper official title for the nation to pursue.
Hsieh expressed his preference for the version approved by the Central Executive Committee on Sept. 27, which said the nation should "accomplish rectification of the name `Taiwan' as soon as possible and write a new constitution."
An amendment proposed by Yu -- which was endorsed by some 200 congress representatives on the eve of the assembly -- ended up receiving votes from just 43 of the 328 representatives at the congress.
Another proposal endorsed by eight other representatives was also rejected by the congress after it garnered just 30 votes.
The defeat of Yu's camp was followed by Hsieh's surprising announcement that he would not attend the congress. Hsieh's no-show marked the first time a DPP national congress had been held without staging a grand rally for the party's presidential and vice presidential candidates.
Yeh Chu-lan (
Houng said Hsieh's success in pushing his preferred version of the "normal country" resolution at the congress came in part because his running mate, Su Tseng-chang (
But the fact that the party did not choose Yeh to take over Yu's chairmanship suggests that Hsieh does not yet have full control over the party, Houng said.
"This showed that although party factions that are not affiliated with Hsieh are willing to cooperate with him, they are unwilling to allow Hsieh to take full control of everything now," Houng said.
Tamkang University professor of public administration Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒) said Hsieh would have made a public appearance by now if he had managed to fully control the party.
Shih was referring to the fact that Hsieh has not made a public appearance since his absence from the celebration of the DPP's 21st anniversary on Sept. 28.
Hsieh's triumph in the resolution issue has led to a reduction in the trust pro-independence groups have in him, Houng said.
"Hsieh may not have realized that the groups are really disturbed [by the resolution]," Houng said, adding that the pro-independence groups believe the final resolution reflects Hsieh's views on Taiwan's future development.
"These people are having negative feelings [about the resolution]. My understanding is that they may choose not to vote [in next year's presidential poll]," he said.
The first thing for Hsieh to do after he resumes public appearances is to respond to the requests made by the pro-independence groups, Houng said, referring to a statement issued by 11 chief figures of the nation's pro-localization groups that was published in the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister newspaper) yesterday.
They urged Chen and the DPP to change the name of the nation's flagship carrier, China Airlines, to Taiwan Airlines and to work toward "achieving the `Republic of Taiwan' within the remainder of the president's term."
"The controversy of the `normal country' resolution has made the people feel there is no difference between the DPP and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)," the statement said. "We suggest that Hsieh, who is running for election, take the initiative to communicate with pro-localization groups so as to reach a consensus on Taiwan's future."
Nevertheless, Yang Chun-chih (楊鈞池), an associate professor of government and law at National University of Kaohsiung, downplayed the importance of the pressure brought by pro-independence groups against Hsieh, saying the pressure would constitute nothing but "noise" for the candidate.
Yang said there is a general and steady tendency for the likelihood of an alliance of Hsieh, Chen and the DPP's former New Tide faction to arise after the national congress.
"It is only a matter of time before the three parties of the alliance will finalize an approach through negotiation," Yang said.
However, Yang said Hsieh's campaign message remains "chaotic" and "unclear," adding that Hsieh should coordinate with Chen to sharpen his message.
Shih, however, said that such coordination would be difficult.
He said Hsieh's handling of the resolution controversy was a reflection of his "problematic personal style."
This style, Shih said, had prevented Hsieh from fully taking authority from the president.
Given the complex relationship that has existed between Hsieh and Chen since they competed for the right to become the DPP candidate in the 1994 Taipei mayoral election, Hsieh must enhance his communication with the president in order to fully take control of the DPP, Shih said.
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