The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) enjoyed a raucous and surprise-free party congress yesterday as the current party primary format of public polls, and DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang’s (蘇貞昌) measure on party members’ right to vote and to be elected, were retained.
Considered to be major factors that could impact the seven-in-one elections next year and the DPP’s primary for the 2015 presidential election, opinions were strongly divided over both issues, yet Su appears to have withstood pressure that was seen as a major challenge to his chairmanship.
While more than a dozen members spoke in opposition to the current primary format, only 66 out of 287 party representatives voted in favor of readopting the old primary format, which relies on a mix of member-voting (30 percent) and public polls (70 percent) to select nominees.
Party heavyweights were divided on whether to scrap the current format, adopted by former chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), with Tsai voicing her support of the current system, while former premiers Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and Yu Shyi-kun said they supported reinstating member-voting.
Su, who made the reinstatement of the member-voting mechanism a key part of his chairmanship election campaign last year, was blasted by several members for betraying his campaign pledge. After the meeting, Su said while he has his own opinions, the wishes of the party congress must be respected.
The change in member rights regulations, which stipulate that members must have belonged to the party for at least two years — as opposed to the previous one-year requirement — to vote or to be named as a candidate in party primaries, also drew heated discussion, but did not make it to a vote.
Su announced the change earlier this month after controversy surrounding reported cases of mass applications, the involvement of gangsters in membership applications and the party’s oft-criticized nominal member system.
The chairman reiterated that the party is determined to do everything it can to win the seven-in-one elections next year, which will involve more than 10,000 local government and council positions, including leadership of the six special municipalities and 16 cities and counties across the nation.
The dispute over former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) rejoining the party stayed on the sidelines of the meeting after DPP Legislator Mark Chen (陳唐山) withdrew his proposal to reinstate A-bian’s membership on Friday.
While Yu said he supported the return of the former president, who is serving a 20-year sentence for corruption, Tsai and former presidential advisor Koo Kwan-ming (辜寬敏) were lukewarm on a comeback.
Chen Shui-bian’s rejoining the DPP was a “tough question that the DPP ultimately has to face,” Tsai said, adding that “A-bian would need to make a lot of effort to win back society’s respect.”
Most party members who spoke to the media, including Greater Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊), declined to speculate on the former president’s return, saying they would let matters develop naturally.
The three-hour congress sent other initiatives, including the nomination rule for next year’s mayoral elections, a “Resolution on Human Rights Exchanges Across the Taiwan Strait,” (which aims to shift engagement from politics and economics to democracy and human rights) and an initiative calling for a China policy debate to build a party consensus, to the party’s Central Executive Committee.