The DPP: Why Not Become a Smart Opposition Party?China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 15, 2010
Does the legislature need dissent? Of course. But many of our legislators have a very different way of expressing dissent. The first is to hit people. The second is to walk out. Is it really impossible to strike a balance between the two? Of course it is. Striking a balance between the two is the norm. Only abnormal situations necessitate zero-sum games. During the recent emergency session of the legislature, the DPP opposed ECFA. Therefore DPP legislators first hit people, then walked out. For the DPP, this behavior was typical. As a result, the final resolution on ECFA included no dissenting views. Instead, bills pertaining to cross-Strait relations or other major issues passed during the emergency session reflected only the views of the ruling party. What should have been passed was passed. In this particular case, the result was not bad. But that raises a question, namely, what is the point of having opposition parties?
In its fight against ECFA, the DPP took a beating. The reason was simple. From beginning to end, it failed to offer a convincing case. It failed to offer an argument that would convince even itself. one that was free from the shackles of its own ideology. The Ah-Bian administration ruled for eight years. Whether it should have or not, it opened the doors to most Mainland agricultural produce. it opened the doors to cross-Strait economic and trade exchanges, and large scale investments. Its policies and edicts made little attempt to prevent substantive private sector exchanges and investments. After eight years in power, the DPP experienced the bitter taste of losing power. Strangely enough, the DPP still could not bring itself to condemn Chen Shui-bian's corruption. Nor could it dissociate itself from its Taiwan independence voter base -- a voter base which had no hope of ever becoming an absolute majority.
As the party leadership launched its anti-ECFA protest march, local DPP officials openly proclaimed that ECFA would benefit many local industries. When the DPP convened an internal meeting, ECFA doves outnumbered ECFA hawks. But the DPP legislative caucus picked a fight anyway, and suffered even greater humiliation. Even more regrettably, as soon as it finished hitting people, the DPP withdrew from "this particular emergency session." It wanted to make clear that it was refusing to endorse the ruling party's cross-Strait policy. As a result, "this particular emergency session" continued to review bills. The bills had nothing to do with cross-Strait policy. Some were economic bills the DPP has long expressed concern over. They included bills pertaining to the appointment of civil servants, pension system reform, rural regeneration, and disaster prevention.
The DPP walked out of the emergency session. It allowed the Legislative Yuan to conduct its business with exceptional smoothness. In a single day, it passed an amendment to the Ba Wu New System Civil Service Retirement Act. It affirmed the legality of military participation in disaster relief. It enabled the Vice Premier to assume the chairmanship of the Disaster Prevention and Relief Committee, immediately elevating the status of the disaster prevention system. The amendments were responses to the suffering endured during Typhoon Morakot last year. Is the DPP truly unconcerned? Lest we forget, the hardest-hit regions were Pingtung County, Kaohsiung County, Chiayi County, all cities and counties under DPP control. The ruling administration is not about to show favoritism to counties and cities based on political affiliation. As long as the people are suffering, the government must address its inadequacies and must improve its performance. Every time a typhoon or flood occurs, the DPP thunders with indignation. But once the disasters pass, they suddenly develop amnesia. DPP legislators walked out of the emergency session. But which DPP legislator if any turned down overtime pay? Can a political party that knows only how to call others names, but has no idea how to improve disaster prevention, really boast about its solidarity with the people?
Consider the articles pertaining to agriculture. These are what the DPP finds most objectionable. Many of the counties and cities under DPP rule are agricultural regions. The heads of these agricultural counties must fight for everything they can get. Participating in the planning and distribution of the agricultural fund is even more desirable. But when the DPP walked out, it allowed others to reap the rewards. Faced with such a situation, the DPP nevertheless chose not to return. Instead, it held a press conference on the outside, and threatened to hold an all night vigil on Ketegelan Boulevard. If the DPP's opposition was genuine, it should have made its opposition official through a vote. Rural revitalization is a major issue on Taiwan. Unless the land can be revitalized, the population cannot be revitalized, and it will be nearly impossible to induce young people to return to rural areas. The DPP blasted the 150 billion NT agricultural fund as "cash bribes." Indeed, cash bribes may well be involved. But just exactly who is being bribed? Lest we forget, agricultural counties and cities make up the DPP's core support. The DPP has chosen to obstruct this 150 billion agricultural fund. Instead it should think up better uses for this huge sum of money.
The DPP has a limited number of seats in the legislature. Nevertheless it remains the largest opposition party. It represents 35 to 45 percent of the voting public. On social and economic issues, the DPP has the potential to garner considerable public support. Society on Taiwan has entered a more civilized stage. It empathizes with the underprivileged. It supports environmental protection. None of this will change. The direction is clear. Must the DPP remain bound by its own ideology? Must it relinquish opportunities to contribute, merely for the sake of its cross-Strait policies? Oversight does not mean hitting people. Opposition can be expressed more intelligently. They DPP is perhaps unwilling to become a loyal opposition party. But is there any reason it cannot become a smart opposition party?