Ing/Chia Ticket Formed: Factional Struggles Coming
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 12, 2011
Summary: No need to wait until Wikileaks blows the whistle. People know perfectly well they cannot believe what politicians say. Take for example DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen's choice of running mate. Originally her goal was to expand the base of voter support. But less than a month later, her goal was to form a "Ing/Chia ticket" to consolidate support within party, and win over swing voters and middle-aged voters. The election climate did not change that much during this time. So why the 189 degree about face? Ultimately what goals are the most important?
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No need to wait until Wikileaks blows the whistle. People know perfectly well they cannot believe what politicians say. Take for example DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen's choice of running mate. Originally her goal was to expand the base of voter support. But less than a month later, her goal was to form a "Ing/Chia ticket" to consolidate support within party, and win over swing voters and middle-aged voters. The election climate did not change that much during this time. So why the 189 degree about face? Ultimately what goals are the most important?
Su Chia-chuan was born in the 1950s. If he becomes Tsai Ing-wen's vice presidential running mate, does that constitute generational change? If so, what would it have meant if Su Tseng-chang had become her vice presidential running mate? Is this really the time to trumpet generational change? Is this not a good time to go after voters in central Taiwan? Political rhetoric is tossed about much too casually. Voters cannot take it too seriously.
So much politically expedient rhetoric has been tossed about while Tsai Ing-wen was choosing her running mate. The main reason is that Tsai Ing-wen misjudged the situation from Day One. Tsai and the DPP's first choice for vice presidential running mate was of course Central Bank President Perng Huai-nan. The DPP lacks people with financial and economics expertise. He could have filled that gap. He could have provided "adult supervision," the reassuring presence of an experienced veteran, watching over the nation. These were all qualities that would have attracted swing voters to the DPP. But would Perng Hui-nan assent? That, as it turned out, was something the DPP and Tsai Ing-wen could not control. They misjudged the situation. As a result, Tsai Ing-wen's choice of vice presidential running mate was delayed nearly two months.
Had Perng given the nod, he would have solved all the DPP's problems. But when Perng didn't, he opened up a can of worms. Because Perng Hui-nan was the only candidate for which the DPP was in agreement. Even Tsai Ing-wen herself remains controversial among party elders.
Take Su Tseng-chang for example. According to polls he has the most momentum. Most DPP members and factions consider him their first choice for Tsai's vice presidential running mate. Tsai Ing-wen asked Su Tseng-chang to be her vice presidential running mate on September 2. She obviously did so in response to collective sentiment. She characterized it as a "bold gesture." On September 8, Su Tseng-chang held a press conference, during which he turned her down. The very next day, Tsai Ing-wen announced that Su Chia-chuan would be her running mate. As the sequence of events shows, Tsai Ing-wen had already settled on Su Chia-chuan. She asked Su Tseng-chang merely as a pro forma gesture.
It was just as well that Su Tseng-change turned down the vice presidential spot. He said many times in the past that he would not serve as vice president. Had he not turned it down, he would have lost credibility, and have had little positive impact on the election. But within the DPP, being true to one's word is meaningless. Think back to last year's Five Cities Elections. The consensus within the DPP was that whoever wanted a shot at the presidency would have to negotiate the gauntlet of the Five Cities Elections. Does this reasoning show any respect for the voters' feelings?
Despite high-minded rhetoric, the DPP has never transcended factionalism. DPP factions are not working with each other to win the election. On the contrary, DPP elders have their own axes to grind, Su Tseng-chang wants to build momentum for a run at the presidency in 2016. Rival Frank Hsieh is not about to let Su have his way. Su Chia-chuan's candidacy is being spun as generational change. In fact his candidacy is backed by Frank Hsieh. This hardly constitutes passing the torch. The New Tide Faction has the most middle-aged party leaders. But they fully support party elder Su Tseng-chang, They show no signs of wanting generational change.
Soon after Tsai Ing-wen took over as party chairman. she boasted that the era of the party princes was over. But two years later, not a single party prince has surrendered his claim to the throne. Frank Hsieh, Su Tseng-chang, Yu Shyi-kun all maintain their own standing armies. On the surface, the factions defer to Tsai Ing-wen. But beneath the surface, they continue expanding their power. DPP factions have become "10,000 year factions."
Over the past two years, the DPP has ostensibly been reborn, like a phoenix rising from the ashes. But in fact it is the same old DPP. This means that if Tsai Ing-wen is elected president in 2012, she will face the same DPP that Chen Shui-bian faced in 2008. DPP factions are adept at advancing their own interests. Will they cooperate with the party chairman and adopt the path of moderation whiled dealing with the affairs of state? That remains to be seen.
Conversely, if Tsai Ing-wen loses in 2012, she will be a classic example of a fleeting phenomenon. Her tenure and whatever she accomplished as party chairman during her tenure, will be like a ship passing through the water. No trace will remain behind. A naked factional power struggle is about to erupt within the party. No faction is powerful enough to swallow up its rivals. Therefore at best they will arrive at a balance of terror. At worst, they will engage in a never-ending power struggle.
Tsai Ing-wen was too cavalier about the backlash from within her own party when she compiled her list of nominees for legislator wihout portfolio. Factional leaders have even begun questioning Tsai Ing-wen's ability to govern. Her inexperience showed during her vice presidential running mate selection process. Party princes began wondering whether the Tsai Ing-wen era had arrived a little too early. A presidential candidate's choice of vice presidential running mate is not that important. But the selection process must be handled properly. If not, Tsai Ing-wen could suffer serious political damage.