ANALYSIS: Expulsions leave TSU in awkward position

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Mon, Nov 05, 2007 - Page 3

The expulsion of two legislators by the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) has put the party in a difficult position regarding the January elections, but Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) stands to benefit from such a move, a political observer said yesterday.

The TSU raised political eyebrows on Monday when it dismissed legislators Liao Pen-yen (廖本煙) and Huang Chung-yung (黃宗源).

TSU Chairman Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝) said that the pair had been "uncooperative" and had failed to follow the party line.

TSU Legislator Lin Jih-jia (林志嘉), director of the party's caucus office and one of the initiators of the motion to expel the duo, blamed the pair's close relationship with the DPP's disbanded New Tide faction for their dismissal.

He said that Liao and Huang were too close to Vice Premier Chiou I-jen (邱義仁), a former member of the faction, and took orders from him.

Lin said his party did not want to pick a fight with the DPP but that they were prepared to confront the New Tide.

Lin said the New Tide, which has long been in favor of developing closer economic ties with China and favored former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) as the DPP's presidential candidate, has dominated the DPP administration's policy making.

Liao and Huang may not be the only two legislators the TSU will cull. Speculation is mounting that the party will dismiss legislators Yin Ling-ying (尹伶瑛) and David Huang (黃適卓) today.

Yin said on Saturday that she would join the DPP if it would help the pan-green camp win the legislative election.

David Huang said that he was confused by his party's dismissal of Liao and Huang Chung-yung and that he should be expelled too if being too close to DPP members was the reason for their expulsion.

Political analyst Wang Kung-yi (王崑義) said yesterday that the TSU's move was the result of political maneuvering aimed at helping Hsieh cut ties with President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and the New Tide, who have taken Hsieh hostage.

"A split between Hsieh and Chen after the legislative elections is inevitable," Wang said.

"Hsieh does not want to allow Chen to continue to dominate his campaign strategy in the run-up to the presidential election in March, not to mention his national policy if elected," Wang said.

Since the election campaign kicked off a few months ago, Chen has outshone Hsieh and dominated newspaper headlines on a daily basis, largely thanks to his criticism of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

It is not the perfect time for Hsieh to break up with Chen and the New Tide, Wang said, but Hsieh is ready to strike because he must prove to his supporters that he is the presidential candidate, not Chen.

If Hsieh wins the presidential election, Wang said the KMT is bound to split into two forces: the pro-localization and pro-mainlander.

The pro-localization faction is likely to defect and join forces with former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who has been advocating a "third force."

If Hsieh were to lose, he and the New Tide will go their separate ways and Hsieh is likely to leave the DPP and join Lee's new political force whose moderate political position is identified by Hsieh, Wang said.

Although it is still too early to tell whether the TSU's strategy will actually work, Wang said that the party must make an all-out effort to remain as a viable political force if it does not want to follow in the footsteps of the People First Party, which is being gradually absorbed by the KMT.

Chao Yung-mau (趙永茂), a political science professor at National Taiwan University, said that the TSU's house-cleaning might help the party secure some votes from centrist voters, but nobody knows whether they will come out and vote.

"It is a dramatic and dangerous move," he said.

Besides, the party does not benefit from it in the short term because the candidates they nominate to replace the legislators they expelled are unlikely to win, he said.

Chao speculated that Lee, who is known for his political acuteness, may try something else before the elections to boost the TSU's odds of winning more seats in the legislative polling, in which a new electoral system will be used.

Political commentator Luis Chong (何其忠) said that the new electoral system is bound to put smaller parties in an unfavorable position and that it will be hard for marginal parties such as the TSU and PFP to maintain their political influence.

They will either disappear or merge with bigger parties if they fail to come up with more distinctive or appealing policies, he said.

Chong also criticized the TSU's new path of "center left" as "vague" and "unsuited" for Taiwan.

However, a "vague" party line may serve as an advantage for the party in a new political situation following the legislative and presidential elections, he said.