Tsai Ing-wen and Su Tseng-chang are like Oil and Water
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 4, 2010
Su Tseng-chang says he is refusing to run for mayor of Xinbei City because he respects the precedent set by George Washington, who refused a third term as president. Do you believe his explanation? Does Su Tseng-chang believe his own explanation?
Yesterday Su Tseng-chang publicly announced his bid for mayor of Taipei. He said that he would run to win. He said if he won he would serve out his full term. He said he would not run for president in 2012. People have long known that Su Tseng-chang would make such a declaration. They also consider such a declaration pointless, since those who believe him will continue to believe him, and those who disbelieve him will continue to disbelieve him. Besides, Su Tseng-chang's record when it comes to keeping his word is less than impressive.
Tsai Ing-wen and Su Tseng-chang have very different strategic views of the five cities elections. Tsai Ing-wen wants to adopt a step by step approach. She wants Su Tseng-chang to take Xinbei City. But Su Tseng-chang has set his sights on Taipei City. He is gambling with his own political future and the future of the entire Democratic Progressive Party. Most people think the disagreement between Su and Tsai is merely over election strategy. But a deeper look reveals that their disagreement has affected their ongoing power struggle and the political paths mapped out for themselves and their party.
First, let's look at Su Tseng-chang's election strategy. Su must say that if he wins the mayoral race, he will not run for president. Otherwise, he may as well forget about running. But if Su wins by a sufficient margin in Taipei City, he will become the national leader of the Democratic Progressive Party. He will surely run for president, invoking the principle of "vox populi, vox dei." On the other hand, if he loses, having established himself as the leader of the DPP during the election campaign, it would only be natural for him to run for president. It is not hard to visualize the evening of the five cities elections. Win or lose, the crowds will surely chant, "Su for president!"
Su Tseng-chang is making a Machiavellian political gamble. By doing so, he has brought himself into conflict with Tsai Ing-wen's authority and political path. Tsai wants Su to play by her rules. But Su has essentially hijacked Tsai and is forcing her to play by his rules. By becoming a candidate for mayor of Taipei, Su has positioned himself at the head of the DPP's five mayoral candidates. He will now become the party's real power center. Chairman Tsai has had the rug pulled out from under her. Su Tseng-chang is also versed in the thinking and practices of the Kaoshsiung Incident era lawyers. Throughout the election campaign his presentation, his rhetoric, his thinking, and the atmosphere he has created have diverged widely from Tsai Ing-wen's expecations. The election campaign has revealed the contradiction between the two individuals' authority and political paths. This is inevitable. It is not something that the two individuals can change through the force of their will.
Two elements are fueling the fire. The first is, who will run for Xinbei City mayor? The second is, who will run for president in 2012? If Tsai Ing-wen runs for Xinbei City mayor, the game is more likely to play out according to Su Tseng-chang's plan. The result will be a "Su/Tsai ticket." But the probability that Tsai will run for Xinbei City mayor is low. Mainly because Tsai's vision differs from Su's. As a result, the Democratic Progressive Party candidates for Xinbei City mayor are likely to fall into two categories. The first category is "Yu Hsi-kuen/Frank Hsieh." This would precipitate controversy at the national level. It is also something Su Tseng-chang would be unhappy to see. The second category is "Chen Ching-chun / Su Jia-chuan." This would lead to Su Tseng-chang "selling Xinbei City short." It would expose his selfish use of the elections as a training process for his own troops. Therefore which DPP candidate runs for Xinbei City mayor, and which DPP candidate is capable of becoming Xinbei City mayor, will affect the ongoing power struggle between Su and Tsai.
At a deeper level, Su and Tsai have even more conflicts, both over ideology and political path. Tsai Ing-wen has lifted the Democratic Progressive Party out of the rubble, and elevated it to where it is today. The task was not an easy one. Her "Political Platform for the Decade" reveals her vision for the Democratic Progressive Party and Taiwan. It is one that requires far-sightedness unconstrained by short term considerations. Su Tseng-chang has turned the five cities elections into his own Machievellian political gamble. He has coopted the historic forum Tsai Ing-wen established, and crowded Tsai Ing-wen off the podium. Perhaps Tsai never intended to become embroiled in a power struggle. But if Su Tseng-chang, Frank Hsieh, Yu Shyi-kun and others set the agenda for the five cities election campaign, Tsai Ing-wen may respond to these challenges to her ideology and political path.
So who will run for president? Su said if he is elected mayor he will not run for president. If he means it, Tsai Ing-wen may become the Democratic Progressive Party's leading candidate. That is why Tsai Ing-wen has no reason to run for Xinbei City mayor. She wants to remain unencumbered. But if Su wins in Taipei City, he can say that he is "acquiescing to the popular will," and run for president. He could suggest a "Su/Tsai ticket" that Tsai Ing-wen would find difficult to refuse. Another possibility is that Su Tseng-chang might lose. Even the "Two Cities" would be lost. Would Su run for president? How would Tsai deal with the mess left behind?
Tsai Ing-wen lacks the clout to keep Su Tseng-chang from turning the election into an all out gamble. But she can still choose whether to bet her own chips on Su Tseng-chang. The biggest chip in her hand is her "Political Platform of the Decade," embodying her own vision for Taiwan.
Su Tseng-chang's momentum is now at its peak. Tsai Ing-wen does not dare launch a frontal assault. Therefore, the two must maintain an appearance of unity. Key indicators to watch for include whether Tsai Ing-wen runs for Xinbei City mayor. If Tsai Ing-wen adopts a hands off attitude, Chen Ching-chun or Yu Shyi-kun will run. The differences between Tsai and Su will be overlooked and covered up. Until then, Tsai and Su will be like oil and water.
2010.03.04 02:49 am