More effort needed for pan-green cooperation
In an attempt to jump-start pan-green cooperation, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) recently called for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) to work together to achieve a legislative majority through the year-end elections.
\nChen praised the TSU lavishly for its consistent embrace of the nation's mainstream values, for safeguarding Taiwanese identity and for playing a competent role as the "loyal opposition." He called for a joint effort to help the government do a better job and to lead the nation away from constant political wrangling.
\nChen's latest message has significant implications. First, it appeals to the pan-green candidates to make the political pie big enough to share, by highlighting the importance of vote distribution among pan-green supporters. It also foresees an inevitable competition between the DPP and the TSU under the current electoral system. But it also holds out hope that both sides can minimize division within the pan-green camp.
\nCompared to their pan-blue counterparts, pan-green members have a shot at consolidating a majority in the Legislative Yuan. However, the party's contesting election strategies and campaign appeals naturally cause frictions within the camp.
\nThe nation's unique single non-transferable voting system means that candidates compete with contenders from both the opponent parties and their own party. Such rules of the game facilitate intra-party frictions if there is no strict party discipline or coordinated nomination strategy.
\nThe greatest challenge to TSU-DPP collaboration is that the TSU also draws most of its support from southern Taiwan. To broaden their base of support, both the DPP and the TSU must come up with a better designed system of vote allocation.
\nMoreover, the differences between the DPP and TSU on key issues could affect voters' party affiliation. Being characterized as a more left wing and Taiwan-centered fundamentalist political force, the TSU has made the enacting of a new constitution and a new name for Taiwan its main campaign appeals to the voters. As a smaller party, it is understandable that the TSU will want to develop its own campaign slogan and distinct appeal.
\nThe DPP, on the contrary, has stuck with a more incremental constitutional reengineering process in accordance with the current ROC Constitution -- as outlined by Chen in his inauguration address. In light of the sensitivity of the US-Taiwan-China relationship, the DPP must convince both international and domestic audiences it will take a cautious approach in dealing with constitutional issues.
\nBut can these two parties cooperate with each other on the process of constitutional revision? To what extent can Chen and his party allay concerns -- especially from the US -- that he's not just engaging in a "good cop, bad cop" routine?
\nAlthough the DPP has not yet revealed its concrete steps towards constitutional reform, the ruling party will probably incorporate a more moderate method of dealing with constitutional issues. By doing so, it helps the ruling party differentiate its candidates from TSU candidates.
\nFurthermore, the DPP should utilize its governmental resources and the gradually recovering economy as driving forces to boost its own campaign momentum. The key goals laid out by Chen in his inaugural speech -- the promotion of ethnic harmony, the establishment of peaceful cross-strait relations and the build-up of a mature civil society -- are the fundamentals of the DPP platform.
\nIn order to achieve those goals, better and more detailed techniques of vote distribution should be adopted by the pan-green camp.
\nLiu Kuan-teh is a Taipei-based political commentator.
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