While the impact of former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) corruption scandal on the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is debatable, if the party is serious about winning the next presidential election, it will have to reassess its China policy to win the public’s support, analysts said yesterday.
Opposition to the so-called “1992 consensus” was not the reason why the DPP lost the Jan. 14 presidential election, rather it was the party’s failure to formulate and articulate its China policy, the analysts said at a forum held by the Taiwan Brain Trust to discuss the DPP’s loss.
“When examining the loss and preparing for the future, the DPP should work on two things: A complete assessment of Chen Shui-bian’s legacy and a well-thought-out China policy, based on its long-standing position of safeguarding Taiwan’s sovereignty, that could convince voters,” former DPP legislator Lin Cho-shui (林濁水) said.
Public opinion polls showed that support for DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) remained stable during the run-up to the election, when several business tycoons voiced their support for the “1992 consensus,” Lin said.
Data also showed that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) suffered every time the focus of the campaign shifted to sovereignty, such as when Ma raised the issue of a future peace agreement with China, which is why the “1992 consensus” — also a sovereignty-related issue — most likely did not hurt Tsai, Lin said.
Lin said it was Tsai’s inconsistent China policy that had cost her the public’s support.
For example, two years ago, Tsai opposed the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) trade deal, then she said she would categorically accept the inked deal, only to lash out against the agreement in a presidential debate, Lin said.
Former DPP legislator Kuo Cheng-liang (郭正亮) said Ma was elected not because Taiwanese recognized the legitimacy of the “1992 consensus,” but because Ma and the KMT “brilliantly connected the consensus with Taiwan’s economic future and the voters bought the theory.”
The KMT still used its traditional tactic of playing the “stability card,” Kuo said, but it no longer stressed the political side of the issue.
On the contrary, the KMT stressed the economic side of the “stability card” and eventually won the endorsement of Beijing, Washington and the majority of voters, he added.
Political analyst Chen Sung-shan (陳淞山) said the DPP lost the election because voters did not trust it to handle cross-strait relations, not because of its refusal to accept the consensus.
However, the analysts had differing views on the DPP handling of Chen Shui-bian’s scandal.
Lin said the party should thoroughly assess Chen Shui-bian’s merits: “Otherwise, questions such as ‘Will the DPP grant Chen amnesty?’ will resurface in the 2016 presidential election.”
He added that the shadow of the scandal might perhaps taunt the DPP forever.
However, Billy Pan (潘建志), a psychiatrist and political blogger, said the DPP had already “distanced itself too much from Chen [Shui-bian]” to reap the benefit of the party’s successes during his eight years in office between 2000 and 2008.
The DPP intentionally stayed away from all of Chen’s achievements as president, including economic exploits such as the nations accession to the WTO in 2002 and its above-average economic performance during the dotcom bubble in the early 2000’s, which allowed the KMT to portray the DPP as weak on the economy, Pan said.