The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is at a crossroads. Senior party members have kept quiet since its defeat in Saturday's presidential election, but calls for an autopsy of the result and reform have been rife.
President Chen Shui-bian (
Vice President Annette Lu (
One of the immediate changes the party will see is the election of a new leader. Since it is customary for the party chairman to bear responsibility for an election loss by resigning, the DPP is expected to elect an acting chairman today to replace Hsieh. That person will lead the party through a tough time, and the task will be passed on to a new leader on May 25 when the party will select a new chairman.
The party has been losing ground since Chen and Lu won re-election in 2004. The party has lost almost every major election, except for the mayorship of Kaohsiung City, the DPP-controlled area with the highest administrative status.
Following the DPP's losses in the legislative elections in January, the political miracle Hsieh had wished for failed to materialize. The people of Taiwan cast an apparent vote of no confidence in the Chen administration, which was marred by corruption scandals and lackluster performance.
Worried about the party's future, DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yee (
Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) triumphed in the election, not because it staged a successful reform program, but because the DPP had failed the public, she said.
While the party is still divided over who should take over at its helm, Chao Yung-mau (
To assist the new party chief in the reform process, Chao proposed creating a reform commission to study the performance of the Chen administration, the successes and failures of past elections, effective measures to keep the KMT administration in check and strategies for winning the next election.
Hwang Shiow-duan (黃秀端), a political science professor at Soochow University, said the new party chief did not necessarily have to be the DPP's candidate for the next presidential election, but had to be able to listen to all sides, integrate different opinions and implement reforms.
Allen Houng (洪裕宏), an executive member of the Taipei Society, said that the DPP's new leader should be able to lead it to victory in next year's local government elections, or the party would be doomed.
It is important for the party to examine why it lost the presidential election and set a new course, he said.
"Over the past eight years, the DPP united under a particular person rather than a political ideal," Houng said. "That's one thing that the party must work on."
In addition to a new party leadership, there is talk about a generational shift: retiring the "Formosa generation" and "lawyer generation" and handing over power to the student movement generation.
Chao said that it was not a bad idea to pass the torch to the next generation, as this might help to create a new image for the DPP and turn a crisis into an opportunity.
Next year's local government elections would be a sound testing ground for the party's greenhorns, he said.
Hwang agreed that next year's elections would be a good opportunity for the DPP to regain its political influence, but said it was not necessary to put the older generation out to pasture, because the DPP leadership was younger than that of the KMT.
Houng questioned the relevance of a generational shift, saying the party should rather focus on looking for someone with leadership skills and charisma.
There are also calls for an adjustment of the party's path, with some trumpeting the idea of moving the DPP to the middle ground.
Chao said a course correction was worth considering, because voters have used their ballots in recent elections to show their displeasure with the DPP's manipulation of political ideology and stoking of ethnic tension.
However, Chao emphasized that the DPP should not forsake its insistence on Taiwan-centered consciousness.
Hwang expressed the same opinion, saying that the DPP could be more practical in its cross-strait economic policy in an era characterized by globalization.
Houng said he was disappointed that the DPP did not make any progress in its discourse on the identity issue.
He said he would like to see the DPP develop a newer and more sophisticated theory about how Taiwan can protect its sovereignty and position itself in a world that is more complicated than it was in the Cold War era.
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