Most observers say the student-led movement against the cross-strait service trade pact has dealt a blow to President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration, but members of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) say the protests have also hurt their parties by making them seem like minor players in the political arena.
Several lawmakers from the DPP and KMT have said they are disappointed with how their parties have handled the crisis as if they were trivial actors on the political stage, a perception which should worry the leaders of Taiwan’s main parties.
At a meeting yesterday, members of the DPP’s Central Standing Committee passed a proposal to form an ad hoc group to discuss reforming the party’s management and the nation’s Constitution.
The anti-pact protests have reinforced Taiwan’s democracy and created new challenges for it that the DPP aims to meet in a responsible manner, DPP officials said.
As the movement draws to an end with student leaders’ promising to vacate the Legislative Yuan chamber they have occupied since March 18 by 6pm today, some KMT lawmakers contend that the worst is over for the ruling party.
These legislators said that backers of the party chaired by Ma would stand firmly behind it to face what they termed the protesters’ “collaboration” with DPP lawmakers.
KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) said the DPP would not benefit much politically from the Sunflower movement since the demonstrators are “radical supporters of Taiwanese independence” and would press the pan-green party into declaring that Taiwan is separate from China — a position Wu said would be untenable in any electoral campaign.
However, other KMT lawmakers expressed concern that the protests would instead hinder the ruling party at polls, saying that the KMT will have difficulty attracting the youth vote in future elections because its image has been badly tarnished in students’ eyes.
KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said that while the DPP views students as a “political tool,” the KMT sees them as a demographic model of its broad support base.
However, since the ruling party does not offer young members positions of power, nor grooms them for leadership, it is unsurprising that it would have little leverage among students groups in a crisis, he said.
Meanwhile, KMT Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) said the Ma administration was to blame for the effects of its failure to defend its policies adequately and giving completely unconvincing responses to the criticisms levelled about the trade pact.
It is not just KMT members who feel disappointed with their party leadership’s handling of the Sunflower movement, DPP Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) said that her party’s incompetence had been highlighted by its playing an almost invisible role throughout the crisis.
Instead of showing leadership, the DPP had been nothing more than a quiet follower, she said.
Former DPP chairman Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) also said the protests had brought the party’s flaws to the fore, adding that it should hold an internal meeting to discuss the lessons that should be learned from the protests if it wants to play a major role in Taiwan’s political arena.