Analysis: Adopting more moderate platform may not help parties: analysts

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Mon, May 28, 2007 - Page 3

The drift of political parties to a center position is an apparent attempt to win votes, but analysts said a change of course may not help election performance if it is nothing more than a campaign strategy.

The Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) likely presidential candidate, former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), is known for his moderate stance. He has been advocating the concept of "reconciliation and coexistence" and has said that he would be happy to team up with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) against the Chinese Communist Party if elected.

In a bid to court voters in the middle of the political spectrum, the KMT is expected to revise its party charter next month and include "Taiwan-centered" values in the revised version. The changes will mark the first ever mention of "Taiwan" in the party's charter.

Ma, who is born to Mainlander parents, has been trying to convince Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), a non-Mainlander, to pair up with him in the presidential race.

Frustrated by the political infighting between the DPP and KMT, a DPP Young Turk, Jou Yi-cheng (周奕成), has announced his plan to organize a new political party in a bid to reflect "diversified voices." The DPP's smaller ally, the Taiwan Solidarity Union, has decided to transform itself into a center-left political party and has pledged to focus on social equality and justice rather than the politics of sovereignty.

Wu Chih-chung (吳志中), a political science professor at Soochow University, said that it was logical for political parties to take a pragmatic approach, but added that he did not think there would be much room for moderate parties.

Hsieh may be a moderate and the KMT seems poised to change its party charter, but what the two parties do does not necessarily reflect their intention to move toward the center, Wu said.

Citing the recent wrangling over the name change of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall as an example, Wu said that the issue was a perfect example of an ideological battle between the pan-blue and pan-green camps.

As the upcoming legislative elections will adopt a new electoral system, Wu said the DPP and KMT would continue to dominate local politics and smaller parties would find it difficult to survive. In order to win votes, the two bigger parties will continue to use ideological issues as their political leverage to consolidate support.

The Chinese factor also plays a significant role, Wu said. The more Beijing suppresses Taiwan, the more the public resists and the more Taiwanese resist, the less room smaller parties have.

Wu said that many people detest the political bickering between the two camps, but when it comes to elections, voters stand by the two main parties.

Wu said he did not think political squabbling in Taiwan was as serious as in other countries. Political differences lead to violence and bloodshed in some countries, but in Taiwan, even at the height of the demonstration led by former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) last year, this was not the case, he said.

Chao Yung-mau (趙永茂), a political science professor at National Taiwan University, said that it was clear that political parties wanted to move toward the center to win votes because they realized moderate voters played a significant role in elections.

It is a good sign that political parties want to adjust their course, Chao said, adding that they should map out details of their new policies rather than just touting their changes.

Chao said the KMT's plan to change its party charter was a move made in response to the DPP's efforts to tap into swing voters. It remains to be seen whether the two parties can quell the concerns of their party members while making changes.

Every party wants to win elections, but political leadership and the country's future should outweigh election victories, Chao said.

A politician only cares about the "next election," but a true statesman thinks about the "next generation," he said.

Even Jou's idea of forming another party is admirable, Chao said, adding however that he did not think the odds of success were high, taking into consideration that most voters in the political center are apathetic to politics.

"Although it is an area worth developing, it may take time," he said.

Chen Yen-hui (陳延輝), a professor at National Taiwan Normal University's Graduate Institute of Political Science, said that it was obvious that political parties change their course to win votes, adding that it is inevitable.

While Chen cast doubt on the prospects of a new party, he said the party would still be a headache for the two bigger parties if it managed to win a certain number of seats in the legislature.