If the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was the biggest loser in the nine-in-one elections, then the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) was undoubtedly the runner-up. It was a remarkable feat that Legislator Ann Kao (高虹安), who came under attack for a series of allegations prior to the elections, flipped the mayoral seat for the TPP in Hsinchu City. Despite this silver lining, the TPP only won 14 seats out of 86 in the city and county councilor races, which had some critics dubbing the TPP the “4 percent party” for its low support rate. In post-election somberness, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) re-election as party chairman also failed to generate interest. The TPP’s underwhelming performance has led some to speculate if this is the beginning of the end for the “third force.”
Although it is far too soon to jump to a conclusion, the TPP’s situation is not rosy. In view of former Taipei deputy mayor Vivian Huang’s (黃珊珊) performance in the Taipei mayoral election, voters did not transfer their support for Ko four years ago to Huang, indicating grave disappointment with Ko’s mayorship.
The TPP made gains out of the public’s chronic frustration with partisan hostility between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the DPP. Other minor parties, such as the New Party, the People First Party and the New Power Party, were born out of similar contexts, but none could escape marginalization in the end. The bloodiest example might be the decline of the New Power Party, a party born out of the Sunflower movement. After experiencing infighting, corruption allegations and resignations, the party only gained a 0.62 percent support rating in the most recent elections.
There are two major problems with the TPP. First, it is still essentially a “one-man party,” and is often a political show run by Ko. Despite having attracted talent, Ko still remains the only politician who can exert considerable influence in the political scene. However, as the elections have shown that Ko’s stardom has apparently dimmed, prospects for other party members look bleak.
Second, the TPP lacks an explicit vision or goal. Dubbing itself the “white power” to differentiate itself from the KMT and the DPP, the party has failed to persuade Taiwanese with concrete policies. More often than not, the TPP seems to garner support by relishing in the “gray area” — by lambasting the DPP and giving the KMT a slap on wrist. The TPP’s “white power” is akin to an image that is shaped by Ko’s whimsical comments and blunt rhetoric, but with no fixed ideology or vision.
In view of Ko’s performance over the past eight years as Taipei mayor, there is no doubt that he assumed office as a very different person to the one he is today. Having risen to power with the help of the DPP, Ko has never shaken off doubts or suspicions about his political affiliation with independent voters, nor has he gained forgiveness from pro-DPP voters. Instead, he has focused his intellectual fire on the DPP.
Political mudslinging aside, Ko’s time as mayor leaves much to be desired. Promising to crack down on projects involving corruption, such as the Taipei Dome situation, Ko first won support with his “clean” political neophyte image and bold pledges. However, traffic issues remain unsolved, social housing projects suspended and pledges have come back to bite him.
If Ko wishes to model his presidential ambition on former presidents Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) or Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), he might have to think again. Without having won support from Taipei’s voters, Ko would be pushing his luck to think he could become a president that Taiwanese would respect and love.
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