Senior Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) figures yesterday said the party risked falling into irrelevance following a 90 percent drop in membership over the past two years.
The Taipei Times reported on Feb. 1 that the DPP was facing its most significant crisis in membership in two decades, with less than 10 percent of registered members renewing their membership by this month’s deadline.
While the DPP has not given out specific membership numbers since 2009, sources said the total number was about 40,000, down from about 148,000 last year and a high of 544,000 in 2006.
Publicly and privately, some DPP members, including former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), lawmakers and city councilors, are laying the blame on DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who spearheaded a series of controversial changes to the party’s nomination mechanism for elections last month.
A group comprised of some of those members calling itself “Democratic and Progressive to save Taiwan,” said it might meet on Sunday in response to the crisis, a move that is believed to run counter to DPP efforts to root out factionalism.
Speaking at the group’s founding yesterday, former DPP caucus whip Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮) and former Taipei City chapter head Huang Ching-lin (黃慶林) said the loss of members would have serious repercussions for the DPP, especially as it heads into next year’s presidential election.
Saying the decision to eliminate a party-member vote in the presidential and legislative primaries amounted to “bullying,” Lu added that members were shying away from the party because they believed it was reversing democracy.
There is also speculation that the DPP could cut the number of public debates during its primaries to three, rumors party officials denied.
DPP Secretary-General Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) said the specifics for the primaries and the number of debates had yet to be finalized.
Su and Lu are believed to have had an hour-long meeting yesterday afternoon, in part to hear some of Lu’s views on the fall in party membership and the nomination process revisions. However, Su said the meeting was “cordial” and that he agreed with many of Lu’s views.
“At one point, [Lu] said we should hold more events to attract potential members. We fully agree ... it’s an important issue,” he said.
Tsai did not directly respond to the developments, but said senior party officials were in ongoing discussions with party elders.
She also said she did not have strong views on how many public debates should be held as part of the primaries.