A corruption scandal implicating six former and incumbent lawmakers has tarnished the image of all political parties involved, but none has taken more damage than the New Power Party (NPP), which has been pushed to the verge of implosion.
Taipei City councilors Lin Ying-meng (林穎孟) and Huang Yu-fen (黃郁芬) on Tuesday last week quit the party, followed by the exit of former NPP chairman Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明), one of the six implicated, and the resignation of 10 NPP Decisionmaking Committee members a day later.
Lin and Huang’s exit has greatly weakened the popularity of the party. The only remaining NPP members that have national recognition are former NPP executive chairman Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), Kaohsiung City Councilor Huang Jie (黃捷) and legislators Chiu Hsien-chih (邱顯智), Claire Wang (王婉諭) and Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華).
This is not the first time that the party is at risk of falling apart. Former NPP legislator Kawlo Iyun Pacidal was last year expelled from the party over allegations that her assistants had secured subsidies totaling NT$4 million (US$135,501 at the current exchange rate) from the Ministry of Economic Affairs for associations that they had set up.
The incident indirectly triggered the exits of then-NPP legislators Freddy Lim (林昶佐), now an independent legislator, and Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸), whose position on whether to support President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who was seeking re-election, differed from that of members close to the party’s inner circle. This difference of opinion later that year also prompted the departure of Taipei City Councilor Lin Liang-chun (林亮君) and party member Wu Cheng (吳崢), who reportedly quit due to grievances over the NPP leadership flirting with the idea of teaming up with Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) in the Jan. 11 presidential and legislative elections.
The NPP was born out of the Sunflower movement and its predominantly young supporters who wanted to reform Taiwan’s politics. Its establishment saw the media use the term “third force.” However, its short history of less than six years is fraught with allegations of graft, infighting and conflicts over collaboration with other parties. It has let its supporters down and must choose whether to carry out systemic reforms or be absorbed by the TPP.
If it chooses the former, it must resolve the conflict between its inner circle and its members. Despite Hsu having left the NPP, the party’s inner circle largely comprises members who are close to Huang Kuo-chang, whose clique was reportedly responsible for driving away Lim, Hung and other prominent former members.
If the NPP cannot even allow all of its members to have a fair say in party affairs, its calls to establish its ideals and standards on collaborations with other parties would be nothing more than empty talk.
More importantly, it must vow to never be involved in corruption scandals again and work doubly hard to win back public trust before the local elections in November 2022.
The NPP has so far fought off the temptation of collaborating with the TPP, whose support base largely overlaps with its own. If a partnership with the TPP proves more successful than going it alone, chances are that the NPP would eventually be absorbed. The partnership would surely result in a formidable third force, but given Ko’s questionable cross-strait stance, it would not necessarily bode well for the nation.
The NPP must now contemplate its fate or join the list of Taiwan’s sidelined political parties. Its troubles have plunged the future of the third force into uncertainty.
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