DPP Complacency, Tsai Ing-wen's Anxiety
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 19, 2016
Executive Summary: The Democratic Progressive Party has convened its first Party Congress since its return to power. The old party princes have all stepped down and been replaced by younger generation leaders. Outside the venue, party members engaged in lively vote buying. But no one mentioned changing the party platform to read, “The DPP shall maintain the status quo". Tsai Ing-wen however reminded everyone of the difficulties the new regime has encountered since assuming power. She reminded everyone that they need to do more than jockey for positions of power among themselves. The DPP was pleased as punch. Tsai Ing-wen, on the other hand, was anxious. The party and the government were on different pages altogether.
Full Text Below:
The Democratic Progressive Party has convened its first Party Congress since its return to power. The old party princes have all stepped down and been replaced by younger generation leaders. Outside the venue, party members engaged in lively vote buying. But no one mentioned changing the party platform to read, “The DPP shall maintain the status quo". Tsai Ing-wen however reminded everyone of the difficulties the new regime has encountered since assuming power. She reminded everyone that they need to do more than jockey for positions of power among themselves. The DPP was pleased as punch. Tsai Ing-wen, on the other hand, was anxious. The party and the government were on different pages altogether.
The DPP underwent a major generational power transfer. It was out with the old, and in with the new. New faces appeared and inspired optimism. By contrast, the KMT generational succession has been a failure. It failed to sink roots in the community. It failed to properly manage the transfer of power. On the other hand, how many times has the DPP “rid the party of factionalism”? Factional struggles are going on as we speak. The Party Congress vote buying farce is being being performed right in front of everyone's eyes. The scene is truly ironic.
For decades, the DPP has been demanding that political parties, the government, and the military divest themselves of their holdings in the media. Its cries are still ringing in our ears. But lo and behold, it is now openly courting the media. It has allowed the CEO of the Sanli TV network to form a “Hai Pai” faction inside the green camp. It has allowed it to squeeze the Frank Hsieh faction out of the DPP Central Standing Committee. Spinning this development as the party's "evolution", or as a “successful party media hybrid", is hardly going to fly. So political parties, the government, and the military must divest themselves of media holdings. But media friendly to the green camp may become part of the DPP. If the DPP validates this sort of logic, how can it possibly talk about transitional justice?
When factions gathered at the Party Congress, and held an “office picnic” during the generational power transfer, Chairman Tsai Ing-wen delivered her keynote speech in solemn tones. This was the reason why. The DPP took power just over two months ago, on May 20. Over the past two months, the Tsai regime has committed one blunder after another. Ministers have committed verbal and physical faux pas. They have mishandled a flood at the Taoyuan Airport, a strike at China Airlines, an accidental launch of a Hsiung Feng III missile in the direction of the Mainland, and the South China Sea arbitration controversy. Yet DPP politicians remain totally oblivious. They stand by and do nothing. Their demeanor in the Legislative Yuan has been arrogant and insolent. They pass the buck for their own mistakes onto the previous administration. They revel in the fact that the DPP is now in power and conclude “Isn't this fun?” Perhaps this was why Tsai Ing-wen skipped the niceties and bluntly confronted everyone with the question, “Just what ideals and goals are we pursuing?”
This may be the second time the DPP has been in power. But it is the first time it has held a majority of the seats in the legislature. It clearly does not understand what “total governance” means. It clearly does not understand the difference between a Tsai government and a DPP government. In short, it has not thought through any of these matters at all. Because it does not understand the meaning of "total governance", it does not realize its first responsibility is to solve problems. Instead it behaves like an opposition party. It resorts to physical violence, and incites mob passions. It does not seem to realize it is an integral part of the ruling DPP government. That is why the Lin Chuan cabinet, particularly officials with blue camp backgrounds, are furious.
In short, the DPP has long been a party of social movements, accustomed to inciting unrest. The DPP now enjoys “total governance”. But it has yet to discard its social movement mobilization skills and its instinct for creating conflict. It lacks the ability to think and plan for the long term. It lacks the ability to use its authority to solve problems and contribute to the community. When Chen Shui-bian came to power, he was ridiculed as leader who did not know how to lead. The DPP dismissed these charges and blamed “minority government”. Now however, the DPP enjoys “total governance”. Tsai Ing-wen is attempting to abandon the party's populist demagoguery. She hopes to take a more stable, reformist path. But green camp legislators and local officials remain blind to the heavy responsibility of governing. They are intoxicated merely with being in power. This gap in mindsets is the source of Tsai Ing-wen's anxiety.
Tsai Ing-wen's greatest fear of course, is that public expectations for reform will turn to impatience and anger. Will the Tsai regime be able to get on track? If political and economic crises erupt, will the DPP be able to provide effective solutions? Or will it yammer on as it always has, and offer nothing in the way of progress? If the answer is the latter, people will conclude that the change in ruling parties was meaningless. Their hope may turn to disappointment and anger. Was this not the reason the KMT lost power?
For the moment, Tsai regime crisis management has enabled it to squeak by. But is the regime sincere? That remains in question. The DPP may have plenty of momentum, but it lacks all sense of direction. It lacks the ability to see the larger picture. It lacks problem-solving skills. Can the DPP government, and the DPP party, work hand in glove with each other? A huge gap remains. Myanmar champion of human rights Aung San Suu Kyi was in office for a mere 100 days when she was blasted for heading up a "democratic dictatorship". The DPP must be far more careful than it has.