Wed, Mar 26, 2008 - Page 3 News List

ANALYSIS: Election defeat leaves DPP at leadership crossroads

AFTERMATH With some political commentators saying the DPP may not survive until the end of the summer, the party faces some tough choices on the road ahead

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is at a crossroads. Senior party members have kept quiet since its defeat in Saturday's presidential election, but calls for an autopsy of the result and reform have been rife.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has not made any public appearances since Saturday. DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and his running mate have been keeping a low profile, while former DPP chairman Yu Shyi-kun did not even show up at Hsieh's campaign office when Hsieh made his concession speech.

Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) brushed away speculation that she was eyeing the party's top job when she made a high-profile visit to party headquarters in Taipei yesterday to witness the inauguration of 157 new party members.

One of the immediate changes the party will see is the election of a new leader. Since it is customary for the party chairman to bear responsibility for an election loss by resigning, the DPP is expected to elect an acting chairman today to replace Hsieh. That person will lead the party through a tough time, and the task will be passed on to a new leader on May 25 when the party will select a new chairman.

The party has been losing ground since Chen and Lu won re-election in 2004. The party has lost almost every major election, except for the mayorship of Kaohsiung City, the DPP-controlled area with the highest administrative status.

Following the DPP's losses in the legislative elections in January, the political miracle Hsieh had wished for failed to materialize. The people of Taiwan cast an apparent vote of no confidence in the Chen administration, which was marred by corruption scandals and lackluster performance.

Worried about the party's future, DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yee (李俊毅) said he believed the current turmoil within the party would endanger its existence, and that it might not survive until the end of the summer.

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) said factional infighting had consumed most of the DPP's energy.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) triumphed in the election, not because it staged a successful reform program, but because the DPP had failed the public, she said.

While the party is still divided over who should take over at its helm, Chao Yung-mau (趙永茂), a political science professor at National Taiwan University, said that the new leader would need the ability to integrate differences among party factions, conduct reform and boost its low morale.

To assist the new party chief in the reform process, Chao proposed creating a reform commission to study the performance of the Chen administration, the successes and failures of past elections, effective measures to keep the KMT administration in check and strategies for winning the next election.

Hwang Shiow-duan (黃秀端), a political science professor at Soochow University, said the new party chief did not necessarily have to be the DPP's candidate for the next presidential election, but had to be able to listen to all sides, integrate different opinions and implement reforms.

Allen Houng (洪裕宏), an executive member of the Taipei Society, said that the DPP's new leader should be able to lead it to victory in next year's local government elections, or the party would be doomed.

It is important for the party to examine why it lost the presidential election and set a new course, he said.

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