Pan-blue status quo entrenched by poll success

By Ko Shu-ling and Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Sun, Dec 12, 2004 - Page 2

A change of leadership and a merger of the pan-blue camp remain on hold after the alliance pulled the rug out from under the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in yesterday's legislative elections, political analysts said yesterday.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) may now hang on to his post, observers said. The small, pro-unification New Party is also likely to merge with the KMT before any merger plan with the People First Party (PFP) takes place, if at all.

Columnist Hu Wen-huei (胡文輝) attributed the pan-blue camp's victory to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) playing a relentless independence card, including proposed changes to the national title.

"Although the DPP's appeal to independence consolidated its support base, the aggressive approach alienated part of the electorate in the middle of the political spectrum because it didn't want anything that would cause trouble," he said.

Referring to the nation's difficult diplomatic situation, Hu said that certain diplomatic initiatives, such as changing the nation's title, required less boisterous and more delicate political maneuvering.

Wang Yeh-li (王業立), a political science professor at Tunghai University, attributed the pan-blue triumph to its stable support in key electorates, although the pan-green bloc made some progress in acquiring votes.

The pan-blue alliance gained almost 52 percent of the vote in yesterday's polls, about 2 percent more than it received in the last legislative elections in 2001.

In those elections the pan-blue camp received about 50 percent of the vote. The KMT finished a distant second with 68 seats, or 29 percent of the vote, down from 123 seats after the 1998 legislative elections. In 2001, the PFP stood third with 46 seats, or 19 percent of the vote, doubling its presence. The New Party retained only one seat, down from 11 in the 1998 polls.

The pan-green camp yesterday received about 48 percent of the vote, or 7 percent more than it mustered in the 2001 elections.

In the 2001 elections, the DPP captured 87 seats, or 33 percent of the vote, to become the largest party in the legislature. The splinter Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) emerged as a big winner, capturing 13 seats, or about 8 percent of the vote. Altogether, the pan-green alliance attracted about 41 percent of the vote.

Another reason for the pan-blue camp's triumph, Wang said, was its more effective system of nominating candidates and allocating votes between candidates in the same electorates.

Echoing Wang's argument, KMT Secretary-General Lin Fong-cheng (林豐正) said there were four reasons for the pan-blue camp's success.

First, it applied an efficient nomination mechanism, restricting the number of candidates nominated. Compared to the 122 legislative candidates nominated by the DPP and the TSU for local constituencies, Lin said the pan-blue alliance of the KMT, PFP and New Party only nominated 116 candidates.

"The pan-green camp over-nominated this year, which had the effect of spreading their vote more thinly, making it more difficult for a large number of its candidates to win seats," he said.

Second, because the pan-blue alliance was conservative with its nominations, Lin said the majority of its candidates could consist of individuals with considerable political experience.

In comparison, many of the pan-green camp's nominations this year were political hopefuls or had less political experience, Lin said.

"Many of the DPP's political heavyweights have already been tapped to become government officials, leaving only members of the party's `army reserves' to be nominated this year," Lin said.

Third, Lin said the pan-blue camp maximized the number of seats it could win by having candidates negotiate among themselves to implement a vote-allocation strategy.

Their success proved that the public was thoroughly dissatisfied with the Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) administration, Lin said.

Lastly, a number of KMT polls revealed that the grass-roots voting base of the pan-blue alliance was larger than that of the pan-green camp.

KMT spokeswoman Kuo Su-chun (郭素春) said the key to the pan-blue camp's success was the people's dissatisfaction with the lackluster performance of the DPP administration.

"It is their displeasure with the events surrounding the March 20 presidential election, it is their dissatisfaction with the current economic situation and it is their discontent with the state of cross-strait relations," she said.

Cross-strait relations and Taiwan's national status have been the main themes of this year's election. The pan-blue camp claimed that a pan-blue legislative majority would demonstrate that the public wishes to retain the national title of "Republic of China" and supports the cross-strait "status quo."

Ho Szu-yin (何思因), a political science professor and director of the KMT's department of overseas affairs, said the election results have been interpreted by the international community as a mandate on the nation's sovereignty.

"This election is important because of its focus on the struggle between the `Republic of China' and a `Taiwan' nation," said Ho, adding that the US and China were paying close attention to the situation.

While a pan-blue majority is able to block a declaration of independence, Ho said the reality is that the legislature has little control over the Presidential Office -- the agency steering the nation's international relations.