Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Third Force: An Impossible Dream?

A Third Force: An Impossible Dream?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
January 10, 2009

Shih Ming-teh and Lee Teng-hui recently held a secret meeting. Rumor has it the two intend to establish a "Third Force." Both the Blue Camp and the Green Camp scoffed at such reports, saying you can't start a fire with a couple of wet logs.

Actually, the public on Taiwan is disappointed with both the Blue and Green political parties. A "Third Force" isn't out of the question. But a "Shi Li Alliance" is hardly the answer the public was looking for.

Why are Shih Ming-teh and Lee Teng-hui finding it so difficult to generate any political sparks? Shih Ming-teh's political credentials and Quixotic bent have undeniable appeal. Unfortunately his Quixotic bent is also his Achilles Heel. After leading one million "Red Shirt Army" supporters onto the streets, he lost control of them and his organization fell apart, seriously damaging his reputation. Shih Ming-teh's strength is that he is less selfish than most politicians. His weakness is his lack of organizational ability. He now finds it difficult to summon the masses. For the Quixotic Shih to associate himself with the Machievellian Lee, is like sticking a flower in cow dung.

Unable to make it within the KMT, Lee Teng-hui formed the Taiwan Solidarity Union. The Taiwan Solidarity Union wouldn't fly. He is now trying to establish a Third Force. No wonder the public perceives him as a political chameleon. In terms of real world influence, he even lost the crown of "Nativist Godfather" to someone behind bars, Chen Shui-bian. It's curtain time for him on the political stage. What's more, Chen Shui-bian has exposed Lee's own corruption and money-laundering. Prosecutors have many questions they want to ask him. For Lee Teng-hui to talk about the creation of Third Force at at a time like this, looks like an attempt to rally political support to evade criminal prosecution. Few people care about the larger picture. Furtermore, the Shi Lee Meeting was brokered by scandal-ridden Taiwan independence "elder" George T. Chang. If that isn't a marriage made in Hell, what is?

Is there no room for a "Third Force" on Taiwan? Yes and no. The Democratic Progressive Party's eight years of terror tore Taiwan apart. Yet it stubbornly denies any wrongdoing and refuses engage in any soul-searching. It persists in valuing political affiliation over truth and justice. It is going to have a hard time functioning as an effective opposition party. Now let's look at the KMT. The Ma administration has disappointed the public. Yet it can't be bothered to change. It has the support of a supermajority in the Legislature. Yet it never follows up by correcting its many blunders. According to the polls, over 60% of the public does not support any political party. Given such a high percentage, there should be room for a "Third Force."

Let's examine the issue more closely. In fact political evolution on Taiwan over the past twenty years has led to the emergence of a variety of "Third Forces." This includes the New Party and the People First Party. Their split from the KMT even led to the emergence of the TSU. All were efforts to check and balance the two major parties. All were attempts to gain public support outside the KMT and DPP. Unfortunately the development of these parties was often limited by "geneology" or pull. They became pawns at the fringes of the Blue vs. Green power struggle. In the end they either collapsed or lost their unique character. This includes the "Pan-Purple Alliance" and even the "Red Party", the "Third Socialist Party." These organizations or initiatives were all inspired by public discontent, but all failed.

This record reveals a harsh fact. Whenever the two major parties perform badly, the public looks to a "Third Force." It looks to a fresh political wind to clear the air. But the political reality is that the emergence of any Third Force usually hinges on some high-profile figure within the political establishment. One simply cannot expect such people to champion any transcendent values. In fact, everyone on Taiwan would like to transcend Blue and Green. But every time a new political force emerges, it invariably ends up in either the Blue camp or Green camp, intensifying the vicious cycle of struggle and turmoil.

Last year's presidential election essentially consolidated Taiwan's two-party political system. The Blue and Green parties were each presented with the opportunity to develop their own potential, and to spare Taiwan another Warring States Period. Unfortunately, the ruling party failed to meet public expectations, and the opposition party failed to restructure itself as a morally persuasive opposition party. leaving the public disappointed with both. That Shih and Lee wouid attempt to establish a "Third Force" at this time is hardly an accident. Shih Ming-teh in particular spoke of a "Twenty-first Century Taiwan Dream." Isn't that precisely the sort of vision the public expects from both the ruling and opposition parties?

Shih Ming-teh and Lee Teng-hui group may not have created a meaningful "Third Force." But at least they held up a mirror. They forced the Blue and Green political parties to acknowledge the public's dissatisfaction. They forced them to consider their own responsibility at this moment in history.

2009.01.10 04:30 am



何以說施明德和李登輝已難再掀起政治風潮呢?施明德的從政資歷和浪漫性格,原具有其社會號召力;可惜浪漫性格也是他的致命傷,尤其他領導百萬紅衫軍倒扁運 動最後因組織失控而瓦解,其魅力也大受損傷。施明德的長處在於他較少一般政治人物的私心私欲,短處則在他不耐深度組織耕耘;且不說他如今已難再召喚群眾, 與李登輝合作更是一朵鮮花插在牛糞上。

至於李登輝,玩不成國民黨搞台聯,台聯搞不成又想玩第三勢力,留下的只是政治變色龍的形象。再論實際影響力,他在本土教主的爭奪戰中竟然敗於繫獄的陳水扁 之手,如今在政治舞台上也已到了謝幕的時刻。更何況,陳水扁咬他洗錢貪汙,還有許多疑點等待司法調查;李登輝此時談籌組第三勢力,恐怕是找尋政治憑藉以備 對抗司法者多,真正關注大局者少。再看,施、李之會,竟是弊案纏身的台獨大老張燦鍙牽線,那將是如何奇特的一部拼裝車?

儘管如此,能說台灣沒有「第三勢力」存在的空間嗎?這並不是一個「無」或「有」的答案。看當前的政治,民進黨不僅對執政八年撕裂台灣的惡行毫無反省,且至 今堅持顏色問政,這也使它成為一個稱職的在野黨都有困難。再看國民黨,馬政府執政表現讓人民失望,卻始終不設法改善,又仗著國會過半的護航,施政凸槌卻不 追究。根據媒體民調,民眾表態「不支持任何政黨」的比率已超過六成;這麼高的比率,難道不是「第三勢力」的空間?

進一步檢視,台灣過去廿年的政治發展,其實可發現許多「第三勢力」的變形品種。包括新黨、親民黨從國民黨的分裂,乃至台聯的成立,都是針對兩大黨的制衡與 反叛而生,意圖爭取不同於國、民兩黨的第三類的群眾。可惜這些政黨後來的發展,或受制於「血緣」,或受限於「感情」,均變成藍、綠板塊的邊緣附庸,淪為他 們的棋子,最後終告瓦解或失去獨立風格。不僅如此,包括「泛紫聯盟」乃至「紅黨」、「第三社會黨」的組織或倡議,也都是民間在同一脈絡下的發想,亦均未成 功。

這些歷史,指出了一個苦澀的事實:每當兩大黨表現惡劣,人民對「第三勢力」的渴望就會升高,期待更清新的力量來扭轉現狀。然而,在政治現實中,第三力量的 擴張卻往往依附著鮮明的人脈浮沉,而無法提煉為更高的價值理念。其實,超越藍綠是台灣人民的共同夢想,但每有不同政治力量出現時,卻只能依附藍綠,加深鬥 爭和動盪的痛苦,這已成為一個難解的封閉循環。

去年大選之後,台灣「兩黨政治」其實已基本成形,藍綠兩黨原本有很好的機會各自發展經營,使台灣的政治免於重淪戰國割據。可惜,執政黨未能滿足人民對效能 政府的期待,在野黨又未能以積極作為重整在野形象,雙雙讓人失望。施李籌組「第三勢力」在此時傳出並非偶然,尤其不該輕忽施明德提出建構「廿一世紀的台灣 夢」,那不正是朝野兩黨應向人民提供的願景嗎?


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