The DPP's Four Year Struggle over 2016 Has Begun
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
Thursday, April 30, 2012
Summary: The Democratic Progressive Party held its first party chairmanship election "policy presentation session" yesterday. Chen Chu yawned. Su Jia-chyuan slumped in his chair, like a sack of flour. This was perhaps the most boring and inept high-level policy presentation session that the DPP has ever held. It was truly surprising.
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The Democratic Progressive Party held its first party chairmanship election "policy presentation session" yesterday. Chen Chu yawned. Su Jia-chyuan slumped in his chair, like a sack of flour. This was perhaps the most boring and inept high-level policy presentation session that the DPP has ever held. It was truly surprising.
When the five candidates spoke about their political and economic programs, their statements were rife with cliches. When they spoke about countering the media, their statements were incomprehensible. Su Huan-chih spoke of "reestablishing rational debate, reestablishing brotherhood." His statement was the only bright spot in the entire affair. Su Tseng-chang actually refused to cross-examine his opponents. He said it was for the sake of party "unity." His explanation provoked embarrassed and skeptical laughter.
But the vague and superficial debate could not conceal underlying tensions. During the policy presentation session, Hsu Hsin-liang acted as if he were Tsai Ing-wen's campaign manager. Su Huan-chih expressed opposition to the party chairman running for president in 2016. The two men directed their attacks against Su Tseng-chang. This was the real truth behind this outwardly relaxed but inwardly tense party chairmanship election.
For the time being, there is no possibility that Hsu Hsin-liang can be elected party chairman. But he is unquestionably dominating the debate. He is unquestionably setting the agenda for the party chairmanship election. One. He supports Tsai Ing-wen's candidacy in 2016. Two. He wants the DPP to deal with Mainland China "on the basis of the Constitution of the Republic of China" He heaped praise on Frank Hsieh's "constitutional consensus." Three. He openly opposes Su Tseng-chang. He says Su "dropped the ball" when he was party chairman in 2008. Tsai Ing-wen later picked it up. He said Su's bid for mayor of Taipei proved that Su was "not someone who considered the bigger picture."
Hsu Hsin-liang's endorsement is a double-edged sword. He has linked his 2016 presidential endorsement to transforming the DPP's cross-Strait policy. He has endorsed Tsai Ing-wen for president. He has endorsed Frank Hsieh's cross-Strait policy. Outsiders are referring to this confluence of forces as "Hsu/Tsai/Hsieh." The three may not be an alliance in fact. But they are already an alliance in spirit. Hsu Hsin-liang has clearly touched off a struggle within the DPP over the 2016 general election. He has extended and consolidated the 2012 "Tsai/Hsieh" alliance against Su Tseng-chang.
Su, Tsai, Hsieh, and Hsu all see 2016 as their last hurrah. Su Tseng-chang has yet to openly declare his candidacy for 2016. He said "A meal is consumed one bite at a time. A job is completed one task at a time." The implication being that between the 2014 "seven in one election" and the 2016 general election, he intends to take it one step at a time. As for Tsai Ing-wen, her momentum has not diminished with her defeat in the general election. She is followed everywhere she goes. If she mutters a few innocent words into a microphone, it becomes news. She is thinking of 2016 of course. Frank Hsieh may not be destined to become president. His current ambition is to transform the DPP's cross-Strait policy. He undoubtedly hopes to make this his historical legacy. Hsu Hsin-liang championed "boldly going west." That made him a leper within his own party. Now he has made a comeback. He is participating at the highest levels in party affairs. He is publicly expounding principles once seen as heretical. He hopes to save himself from the ash heap of history. He even hopes to be seen as the Savior of the DPP, as the one who brought order out of chaos. Outsiders however, see him as a Don Quixote.
This struggle within the DPP over the 2016 presidential election, is also a struggle over the transformation of its cross-Strait policy. It is a struggle among Su, Tsai, Hsieh, and Hsu over values. Su Tseng-chang will probably win the party chairmanship election. But under election pressure, the alliance in spirit between Tsai, Hsieh, and Hsu, may morph into an alliance in fact. Su Tseng-chang may become party chairman. Tsai Ing-wen may become party spiritual leader. The two sides will probably engage in overt and covert struggles over the 2016 general election during the next four years. The competition between Su and Tsai, may transform the run up to the 2016 general election into the longest lasting party primary in DPP history.
The DPP chairmanship election has force the internal struggle over 2016 to break out in advance. This is what the DPP most fears. When rain falls from the heavens, it cannot be stopped. And so is with the coming two year party chairman term. If Su Tseng-chang remains in control of the party center, and Tsai, Hsieh, and Hsu are relegated to the periphery, how can they join forces? If they cannot join forces, and if Su is defeated in 2016, can Tsai replace him? Can the DPP afford a four year long internecine power struggle?
This struggle over power is intertwined with a struggle over the party line. One can hardly characterize this internal struggle as a critical or box office success. Hsu Hsin-liang is the self-appointed director of the show. The performers were reluctant to make their entrance so early. Hsu has attracted much public attention, provoked much public aversion, and inspired much public hope. Not without reason. It was inevitable.
Su Tseng-chang yesterday refused to cross-examine his opponents. But he can hardly refuse to take part in the struggle between himself and Tsai.
2012.04.30 01:27 am