The Meaning behind DPP Factional StrugglesUnited Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 30, 2010
Four years ago, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) declared that it was dissolving its factions. But the main attraction during the DPP's recent plenary meeting was factional infighting and quid pro quo deal-making. As long as the DPP's factional infighting persists, the DPP will to remain a party that spins its wheels and goes nowhere. As long as the DPP's factional infighting contaminates its immediate surroundings, Taiwan will remain a society that spin its wheels and goes nowhere.
The recent restructuring of the Central Standing Committee has led to three results. One. The Chen Shui-bian camp has been annihilated. Two. The influence of party elders and hardline Taiwan independence elements has declined. Three. The New Tide faction, the Su Tseng-chang camp, and the Green Friendship Alliance have become the biggest winners. This outcome suggests that Chen Shui-bian no longer has the werewithal to stir up trouble within the party. That said, the DPP has yet to emerge from the shadow of Chen Shui-bian. In other words, the strategic scenario has experienced a minor and temporary shift due to the Five Cities Elections. The party has yet to take a long, hard look at its party line. What the changes in the Central Standing Committee signify remains unclear.
Consider the Chen Shui-bian camp. Members of Chen's Justice Alliance can only run for their lives. During the May party representatives election, the New Tide faction and the Frank Hsieh camp ganged up on the Justice Alliance. As a result Luo Wen-chia and Huang Ching-ling were routed. Yu Cheng-hsien defected to the Chen Chu camp. Chen Chi-mai joined the Frank Hsieh camp. As the situation stands, it makes no difference how much of a fight Chen Shui-bian might put up. His influence over the DPP leadership has evaporated.
Consider the party elders. Trong Chai is the only member of this faction with a seat on the Central Standing Committee, He is already finding it hard to promote his agenda. Annette Lu badly misjudged the situation when she aligned herself with the party elders during a recent crisis. She no longer has any chance of remaining on the Central Standing Committee. Carelessness spelled defeat for the "Old White Rabbit." The Chen Shui-bian faction suffered a humiliating defeat. The problem however, is that Chen Shui-bian, Annette Lu, the party elders, and hardline Taiwan independence elements have basked in the limelight for too many years. They are not about to retire quietly from the battlefield. That much we know beforehand.
The old soldiers have gradually fallen by the wayside, howling in anguish. Ho Chi-wei, an complete unknown, has been elected to the Central Standing Committee. That was the most interesting development during the recent plenary meeting. Ho Chi-wei is thirty-something. Were he not the son of Hsueh Ling, what chance would he have had? As it is, he was a shoo-in for Central Standing Committee memership the moment he announced his candidacy. Factional struggles within the DPP are a cold-blooded affair. But they also involve subtle gamesmanship. Rivals don't confront each other directly. They don't concern themselves with belief systems. They "rise above" political ideology. They care only about power. Ability, integrity, and ideology must kowtow before the power of conglomerates. DPP leaders may spout high-minded green ideology. But they meekly tolerate these plutocrats in their midst. The scene is so tranquil, but the implications are so thought-provoking.
In addition to Ho Chi-wei, Yen Hsiao-ching, a forty-something with the New Tide faction was elected to the Central Standing Committee. By a one vote margin, he edged out an indignant Annette Lu. For the New Tide faction this may have been a windfall. But for the party, it was merely a further debasement of Central Standing Committee membership. The New Tide faction has cultivated fresh talent for years. It has a protocol for orderly generational secession. Four years after the "dissolution of factions," the New Tide faction is alive and kicking. Other factions can only look on enviously. But consider the larger interests of the party. The Chen family was an albatross around its neck. The party has rid itself of that albatross. It stands at a new watershed. What lies on the other side of the ridge? Even the DPP leadership doesn't know.
During the recent plenary meeting the New Tide faction/Su Tseng-chang camp faction scored a major victory. No one was surprised. But lest we forget, the same scenario played out once before in 2006. The Chen family was engaged in runaway corruption. The public was starting to complain. Premier Su Tseng-chang, supported by the New Tide faction, emerged victorious. The theme of that plenary meeting was "an honest face, a bold vision," Ironically, it insisted on covering up for Ah-Bian. Even more ironically, Ah-Bian eventually ordered the dissolution of factions, and ganged up on the New Tide faction. Frank Hsieh and Chen Shui-bian ganged up on an overexposed Su Tseng-chang, and forced him to relinquish his 2008 presidential campaign.
Four years later, the New Tide faction and the Su Tseng-chang camp have recaptured the Central Standing Committee. But who knows whether this formidable strategic alliance will remain following the year-end elections? Will factional disputes during the elections result in backstabbling? Frank Hsieh would rather break his promise than lose his central role on the political stage. The moves he and the other factions make should be closely monitored. Su Tseng-chang asked Chang Hong-lu to relinquish his Central Standing Committee seat, and give it to Chen Ming-wen. Superficially, this was a generous gesture. In fact, it was motivated by selfish calculation. If Su Tseng-chang had not preemptively seized the candidacy for Taipei mayor, how much momentum would he still have today? Meanwhile, Tsai Ing-wen must guard against Frank Hsieh, and not repeat the mistakes Su once made.
The theme of the recent plenary meeting was "a glorious and blessed new generation." Each of the five cities mayoral candidates staged photo ops, with them holding the hands of young children. The atmosphere oozed warmth. But four years ago, when the theme of the plenary meeting was "boldness and vision" its sole accomplishment was the coverup of Chen Shui-bian's corruption and an open power struggle. The DPP put on quite a show. But the public was hardly impressed by what it saw.
2010.07.30 03:18 am