Ganging Up on Su May Do Nothing to Help Tsai
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 14, 2012
Summary: DPP officials are indeed combative. They do not shrink from a fight. The current party chairmanship election is exactly as Su Tseng-chang recently described. What began as a "Stop Su" campaign has become an "Attack Su" or even "Gang up on Su" campaign. Will Su be elected party chairman? Whether he will be or not, Su Tseng-chang's legitimacy as either party chairman or presidential candidate has been seriously compromised. This was the most important strategic objective of the anti-Su elements within the party.
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DPP officials are indeed combative. They do not shrink from a fight. The current party chairmanship election is exactly as Su Tseng-chang recently described. What began as a "Stop Su" campaign has become an "Attack Su" or even "Gang up on Su" campaign. Will Su be elected party chairman? Whether he will be or not, Su Tseng-chang's legitimacy as either party chairman or presidential candidate has been seriously compromised. This was the most important strategic objective of the anti-Su elements within the party.
Given Su Tseng-chang's reputation and strength, anti-Su elements knew they could not bring him down. But they succeeded in two objectives. One. They proved that Su Tseng-chang was planning to run in 2016. Two. They argued that "Anyone planning to run for president must not serve as party chairman." After several debates, this became the consensus. Therefore, if Su Tseng-chang is elected, any personnel appointments, organizational restructuring, even words or actions, will be subject to close scrutiny. Being elected will be akin to being put into a straitjacket.
The DPP has never before demanded that a candidate for the party chairmanship sign an affidavit swearing not to run for president. Why has it established this unprecedented, ultra-high threshold for Su? The answer course has to do with the larger picture. Su Tseng-chang's personal style has become the focus of the election.
The political situation on Taiwan today is extremely strange. Ma Ying-jeou has yet to be inaugurated for his second term. Yet public support has plummeted. Worse still, a successor within the KMT has yet to be found. Vice President-elect Wu Den-yih has readied himself. Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng is strategically positioned. Xinbei City Mayor Eric Chu waits in silence. The KMT is about to undergo a reshuffle. The DPP knows which way the political winds blow. The current power vacuum offers the DPP its best chance for a comeback.
This is also true for the party chairmanship election following the party's defeat in the presidential election. Four years ago, the planets revolved around Tsai Ing-wen. Today, Su Tseng-chang is the target of a gang attack. Four years ago, Tsai Ing-wen was a martyr who sacrificed herself on behalf of the DPP. Today, Su Tseng-chang is an opportunist picking the ripest persimmons off the trees. Chaos reigns, precisely because in the hearts of DPP members, the timing is too perfect. They cannot abide Su Tseng-chang being the beneficiary of this opportunity.
Why is the DPP so anti-Su? It has to do with Su's personal style. Trong Chai blasted Su. He said Su ignored party rules during the 2010 five cities elections and nominated himself for Taipei mayor. Following the party's defeat in the 2005 county and municipal elections, Su resigned the party chairmanship. But he informed the media before he informed the DPP Central Standing Committee. Hsu Hsin-liang mocked Su, saying he lacked guts and shirked responsibility. He said Su was incompetent. He pulled no punches. He said Su ignores those who reason with him. He said Su was more suited to be a prosecutor or a judge. He said Su was unsuited to be a leader of the DPP. He said that requires human compassion and revolutionary spirit. Hsu's implication was that if Su won the presidency, he would refuse to share power with others. Tsai Ing-wen might be less experienced, but she is a people person. She knows how to share power. She is the one DPP heavyweights prefer to work with.
Green Camp people have learned that "investing in the DPP" is good business. In 2008 the Chen family corruption scandals erupted. The DPP found itself at its nadir. But even at its darkest moment, it received 42% of the vote. During the next several by-elections, Green Camp supporters remained loyal. The storm did nothing to dampen their enthusiasm. During the 2012 presidential election. they lost by six percentage points. Three more percentage points and they could have retaken the presidency. .
Since DPP members have Su, why bother with Tsai? If one is bullish on the DPP, one need not bet on Su Tseng-chang. Will DPP members support Su Tseng-chang? That is his problem. But is Tsai Ing-wen a sure thing? That is the DPP's problem.
Tsai Ing-wen and Su Tseng-chang are competitors. Relations between the two are strained. But apart from leadership style, the two are not that different. Hsu Hsin-liang blasted Su Tseng-chang for never putting forth a meaningful cross-Strait policy. Hsu said Su's calls for dialogue and exchanges with the Mainland were empty rhetoric. Hsu said Su dismissed Washington's policy toward Taipei as "just talk." But these criticisms apply equally to Tsai Ing-wen. Her cross-Strait policy is also double talk. She too has seriously misread Washington's attitude toward Taipei. Only after her campaign defeat did DPP leaders belated complain that she was attacked on all three sides by Washington, Beijing, and the KMT.
DPP leaders have their eyes on the presidency. They would rather support Tsai than Su. But as long as the DPP avoids cross-Strait policy, surging waters will separate it from its destination. It will not be able to pass. The party chairmanship election has revealed the candidates' political views. The candidates agree about "Stopping Su." But on cross-Strait policy they are at loggerheads. Deep Greens such as Trong Chai, Su Huan-chih, Wu Rong-i embrace hardline Taiwan independence. Su Tseng-chang maintains a deliberately ambiguous position. Only Hsu Hsin-liang has confronted the cross-Strait situation. Can such a DPP arrive at a consensus on cross-Strait policy?
This is the key that will determine whether the DPP will once again govern. "Stopping Su" may do nothing to "Support Tsai."