Don't Just Say No: The DPP Must Offer a Vision for the Future
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 17, 2010
Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Tsai Ing-wen has reiterated her commitment to a "Platform for the Decade." Following several victories at the polls, the beleaguered DPP's reaction is now substantially different. Vice President Annette Lu criticized Tsai's platform as "biting off more than one can chew." Elections are held only once every four years, Lu said. To be realistic, the DPP should offer a political platform with a two or four year timeframe.
DPP party elders are not bothering to conceal their belief that "It's all for the sake of elections." Apparently they believe such an attitude will actually help them at the polls. The Democratic Progressive Party has long trumpeted its concern for Taiwan's long term development. Now apparently even a ten year timeframe is too long!
Political competition is never absolute. Between two bad apples, all voters can do is choose the less rotten one. Since last year's three in one elections, the Democratic Progressive Party has won three elections in a row. This can only be explained by the dismal performance of the KMT. But to suggest that the DPP has engaged in soul-searching or that it has offered constructive proposals for the future, will probably be met with raised eyebrows, even from DPP officials.
Take the fiercely debated death penalty issue. Wang Ching-feng refused to implement the death penalty. Cabinet members have adopted different attitudes. Her resignation was no surprise. But consider the underlying structural factors. Voters who support the KMT usually hold more conservative attitudes regarding the death penalty and other social issues. Wang Ching-feng's firm commitment to the abolition of the death penalty was out of step with most KMT supporters. Her resignation was a forgone conclusion.
By contrast, during the "dang wai" era the DPP collaborated with human rights groups. Some Democratic Progressive Party elders were former death-row inmates. The DPP has long trumpeted its intention of "founding a nation on human rights." But when confronted with the Wang Ching-feng incident, all it could do was heap abuse and ridicule upon her. Whether to abolish the death penalty has sparked controversy in many democratic nations. If the DPP were in power today, would it handle the matter more circumspectly?
The "Platform for the Decade" lit a fuse. Last Wednesday the DPP Central Standing Committee discussed "Global Warming and Climate Change: What the Government Should Do regarding Land Restoration." This was supposed to officially launch its Platform for the Decade. But the meeting been barely been convened when DPP officials poured cold water on the proposal. This is truly regrettable. Global climate change will precipitate natural disasters. Taiwan was a victim of the 8/8 Floods. Leaders of the United Nations, the USA, the Chinese Mainland, and the EU are all busy combatting global warming, reducing carbon, and conserving energy. The Democratic Progressive Party however, has no solutions whatsoever. They may say this is not something an opposition party need worry about. But when the DPP was in power, it insisted on scrapping the nuclear energy program. It opposes nuclear power generation. But fossil fuel generating plants may be needed to compensate for the shortfall in nuclear power generation. If the DPP returns to office, does it intend to continue such an energy policy? The world now emphasizes energy efficiency. Does the DPP have a response? Does it have any idea how to deal with such a contingency?
The Republic of China faces another long term problem. Taipei and Beijing are about to sign an ECFA (Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement). The Ma administration is eager to sign, primarily because ASEAN and Beijing have launched a free trade region this year. Exports from the ten ASEAN nations to the Chinese mainland will be tariff free. Similar exports from Taiwan to the Chinese mainland will remain subject to high tariffs. The Ma administration hopes to close the deal on ECFA in order to overcome this problem. The DPP accuses the KMT of looking out only for the interests of big business. But it never offers any alternatives. Even more importantly, what sort of relationship would the DPP establish with Beijing? The Democratic Progressive Party may become the ruling party. It cannot refuse to address this matter merely because it considers it taboo.
DPP officials may say that discussing these issues does not require a Platform for the Decade. An election platform can achieve the same goal. But such an approach would turn every issue into an election issue. Every issue would be evaluated and demagogued for short term political advantage. The DPP would do well to examine the KMT's current plight. The government has flip-flopped on every issue, from taxes for members of the military, the civil service, and public school teachers, to health insurance premium increases. This is a textbook case of being bound hand and foot by election concerns.
And so it is with the DPP. The Republican Party in the United States has enjoyed smooth sailing recently. But it is still willing to talk with Obama about health care reform. It even allowed the Democrats' work bill to pass in the Senate. It knows that a party that only says "No!" will never win the public trust.
The Democratic Progressive Party has also won victory after victory. But its victories have been followed by internecine power struggles. Several electoral districts in the five cities even resorted to character assassination. Perhaps it is unrealistic to talk about the DPP's "Platform for the Decade" given such vicious life or death power struggles. But a new generation of middle-aged Democratic Progressive Party leaders is committed to sustainable development. They really ought to join Tsai Ing-wen and give careful thought to the DPP's plans for Taiwan over the next decade!