Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The DPP's Dilemma in Tainan County

The DPP's Dilemma in Tainan County
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
March 31, 2009

The Ma administration's job performance has been poor. The negative impact of the Chen family corruption and money-laundering case has already been felt. The Democratic Progressive Party sees the year end County Magistrate and City Mayor Elections as a chance for a comeback. But Chen Shui-bian refuses to go away. Over the past few days, rumors suggest Chen Shui-bian intends to run in the Tainan County Legislative by-election. These rumors alone were enough to make DPP leaders wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.

Picture Tsai Ing-wen at DPP campaign rallies, blasting Ma administration ineptitude, the economic downturn, and rapidly worsening unemployment. Meanwhile everyone's attention is focused on Chen Shui-bian's election prospects in Tainan County. How can the Democratic Progressive Party possibly rally support under such conditions? How can it possibly maintain any political momentum it might get from Su Tseng-chang's campaign for Taipei County Commissioner?

Bad as that might be, it's not the worst case scenario. Suppose Chen Shui-bian is actually elected and becomes a Legislator. Chen Shui-bian, not to mention his followers, can inject billions of dollars into the campaigns of Democratic Progressive Party candidates. As Chen put it, "Which faction doesn't owe me favors?" Also, once Ah-Bian stepped down the DPP descended into factional strife. The "Four Princes of the DPP" are terrified of the damage slanderous accusations might inflict upon them. The party has a leadership vacuum. If Chen Shui-bian becomes a Legislator, given his aptitude for political intrigue, and DPP Legislators' habitual deference toward him, Chen could shatter the traditional separation between the DPP party leadership and the DPP legislative caucus. He could become the leader of the DPP legislative caucus, with his own troops to shield him and to do battle with the DPP party leadership.

In fact, Chen Shui-bian, whose reputation has already plumbed the depths, remains the Shadow Chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party. He wields more real power than Party Chairman Tsai Ing-wen. Never mind that she was elected by the party membership. The entire year end County Magistrate and City Mayor Election is unfolding according to Chen Shui-bian's plans.

For example, the DPP party leadership wants Su Tseng-chang to run for Taipei County Magistrate. They hope he can consolidate the DPP's core support, and build momentum for the entire party. But Su Tseng-chang has his own plans for 2012. Therefore, to avoid offending fundamentalists within the party, Su Tseng-chang is unlikely to make any obvious moves to distance himself from Chen Shui-bian. Chen Shui-bian meanwhile, has repeatedly expressed goodwill towards Su Tseng-chang, simultaneously containing him, ensuring that he doesn't dare make any dramatic moves to jettison Chen.

Add to this Tainan County. Ah-Bian first said he wanted Chen Tang-shan to run for Tainan County Magistrate. Later on rumors suggested he might support Yeh Yi-ching for the post, in the process opening up Yeh Yi-ching's Legislative Yuan post for himself. If the DPP is afraid that Chen Shui-bian will act as a spoiler, undermining Yeh Yi-ching's chances, it will be forced to support Chen Tang-shan instead. Ah-Bian would, in effect, have forced DPP party leaders to change their plans, and instead choose the candidate Ah-Bian wanted for Tainan County. Ah-Bian would have completely undermined the candidacies of the new generation candidates the Democratic Progressive Party was grooming.

If the Democratic Progressive Party insists on supporting new generation candidate Yeh Yi-ching, quid pro quo or not, then Yeh Yi-ching will be forced to resign her Legislative Yuan post before the election. If Yeh Yi-ching is elected Tainan County Magistrate, she will leave open a Legislative slot, and Chen Shui-bian will run for certain. If Chen Shui-bian is elected, the DPP's worst nightmare will come true.

How did the Democratic Progressive Party get itself into such a predicament -- one of its own making?

In fact, the harm Chen Shui-bian has inflicted upon the DPP, is hardly limited to his two terms as President. When Chen Shui-bian was President, he indeed had a plan for "long-term rule." During the County Magistrate and City Mayor Elections of 2005, Ah-Bian hand-picked Luo Wen-chia and Lin Chia-lung, in the name of generational change. He forced out Barry Hou, with the intention of grooming Chen Chi-mai for Mayor of Kaohsiung. But when the Chen Shui-bian corruption and money-laundering scandals broke, one after another, the Democratic Progressive Party suffered one defeat after another. An entire generation of younger candidates vanished from the political stage. If they want to make a comeback, they will need extraordinary political skills.

Chen Shui-bian of course has never possessed any political skills other than expediency and trickery. Now, in his own selfish interest, he is no longer trumpeting generational change. He is not even supporting Yeh Yi-ching, who was always extremely loyal to him in the past.

Chen Shui-bian may be selfish, but as long as Chen Shui-bian stirs the pot, Democratic Progressive Party elites will find it hard to escape blame. This is the DPP's moment of truth. The Tainan County Commissioner's Election has put the Democratic Progressive Party on the horns of a dilemma. It may indulge in wishful thinking or self-deception. But its past abetting of Chen Shui-bian's conniving was politically and morally dubious, and also inflicted serious harm upon the Democratic Progressive Party, from which it will have difficulty recovering.

Tainan County has become a litmus test. The Democratic Progressive Party must stand by its own candidates and its own strategy. It must boldly disown Chen Shui-bian. Doing this may put Tainan County at risk. But it may help consolidate other counties and municipalities in which the Blue and Green camps are more evenly matched. More importantly, if Chen Shui-bian does make it into the Legislative Yuan, the Democratic Progressive Party must draw a clear line of distinction between itself and him. It must offer a bold new political platform befitting a major political party. Only then can it avoid becoming Chen Shui-bian's "shadow party."

中國時報  2009.03.31











扁可以自私自利,但是任扁如此翻雲覆雨,民進黨菁英難辭其咎。現在可以說是民進黨的「The Moment of Truth」(說真話的關鍵時刻),看到民進黨在台南縣長選舉的兩難處境,再如何鄉愿或自我欺騙,也應該清楚,過去縱容陳水扁,不但是「同流合污」的政治道德問題而已,也對民進黨發展造成難以復原的傷害。


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