Can Tsai Ying-wen Control the DPP's Factions?
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 30, 2016
Executive Summary: Political arm-twising requires both power distribution and power sharing. For example, the "Policy Coordination Committee” meetings convened by the president include such dubious participants asChen Chu and Chiu Yi-jen. She was merely using factional rivalry to consolidate her political power. Unfortunately when Tsai's popularity declines, she will find it harder to control factions using her prestige. She will be forced to meet factional demands by resorting to ever more power distribtion and power sharing. By that time, will Tsai Ing-wen still be in control of the government, or will she have become a mere figurehead? Will she be forced to appoint someone she does not want as premier?
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The chairmanship of China Steel, which has remained vacant for four months, will finally be filled from within the company by former General Manager Weng Chao-tung. Meanwhile, former chairman Sung Chi-yu has retired. Jostling among DPP factions has made the appointment of a successor impossible. Ministry of Economic Affairs Deputy Chief Shen Jung-chin is filling in on a temporary basis. This has set a new and rare precedent. These personnel appointments have remained unfilled for such a long time because the Tsai government and Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu have both dug in their heels.
According to reports, The Tsai government's preferred candidate was former China Steel chairman Chiang Yao-chung. Chen Chu's perferred candidate was former board member Lin Wen-yuan. Lin is less cooperative. His personal manners are controversial. He even intervened in a rights dispute over Taiwan Benzene, a one time party owned enterprise belonging to the KMT. Therefore the Tsai government is reluctant to accept him as a candidate. But fearful of angering Chen Ju, Tsai hesitated to come right out and appoint Chiang Yao-chung. Eventually the Tsai government was forced to appoint Chiang Yao-chung to the Taiwan High Speed Rail System, and compromise on the China Steel appointment by appointing Weng Chao-tung. Weng tung is nominally a compromise candidate, but was in fact vetted by Chen Chu.
China Petroleum chairman Chen Chin-teh is also a beloved Chen Chu lieutenant, and former deputy mayor of Kaohsiung. The central government takes into consideration the feelings of local government heads regarding local state-owned enterprises. This is understandable, and conducive to good relations. But appointments to state owned enterprises are the purview of the central government. Local government heads normally do have veto power over central government appointments. Chen Chu was an elder of the New Tide Faction, and current head of the Chen Chu Faction. Such an arrangement makes it even more difficult to escape the shadow of factional struggle.
DPP factions have long enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with the DPP. The DPP has repeatedly proclaimed the "dissolution of factions". But intraparty factions have repeatedly reconstituted themselves or cross-bred in response to political necessity. They never really disappeared. This is evidenced by the fact that SEF Chairman Hung Chi-chang was expelled from the New Tide Faction this March.
DPP factions differ from the Kuomintang's "bottom up" local factions. DPP factions are the result of a combination of party member ideology and shared history. After long evolution, many factions have become personal connections. As a result, many factions are named after persons. For example, Chen Chu and William Lai both emerged from the New Tide Faction. But years of cultivating their own power bases has enabled them to head their own factions. Others, such as Frank Hsieh, Su Tseng-chang, and Yu Hsi-kun, each have their eponymous factions. During his presidency, Chen Shui-bian had his Mainstream Alliance faction. Today there is even a "One Nation on Each Side Faction".
These factions however, are largely distinct from traditional DPP factions. The sole exception to this rule is President Tsai. She does not belong to any traditional faction, but has gradually become a party leader in her own right. Tsai Ing-wen has long been an outsider, beginning when the DPP was out of power, and ending when it assumed power for the first time. Tsai Ing-wen rose to power with considerable help from the New Tide Faction. Only after Tsai Ying-wen was elected president, did the so-called Ying Faction formally take shape.
The Ying Faction is the result of a combination of special interests and political styles. It lacks deep roots. It lacks revolutionary fervor and ideological commitment. It lacks close ties to regional power brokers. It lacks personal connections. As a result, the Tsai government requires “factional symbiosis" to survive. Factional symbiosis rests on three pillars. The first is camaraderie among a leader and his followers, rooted in shared party history and revolutionary sentiments. The second is quid pro quo power exchanges. The third is the leader's prestige. Tsai Ing-wen lacks the first. She must rely solely on power and prestige. For example, during the battle over leadership of the legislature, Tsai Ying-wen vigorously backed Su Chia-chuan, one of her own, as premier, who partnered with the New Tide Faction's Tsai Chi-chang. This was a perfect example of her dependence upon power and prestige.
The problem is, no matter how many positions of power one has to allocate, it is hard to meet the demands of so many factions. More positions unequally distributed could even provoke a greater backlash. As a result, the Tsai government has been forced to create new positions. These include previously rumored level three central government agency heads, nominations by blue camp legislators, and the relaxation of qualifications for diplomats. They even include level two political appointees to deputy chief, and deputy chiefs of level three agencies.
Political arm-twising requires both power distribution and power sharing. For example, the "Policy Coordination Committee” meetings convened by the president include such dubious participants asChen Chu and Chiu Yi-jen. She was merely using factional rivalry to consolidate her political power. Unfortunately when Tsai's popularity declines, she will find it harder to control factions using her prestige. She will be forced to meet factional demands by resorting to ever more power distribtion and power sharing. By that time, will Tsai Ing-wen still be in control of the government, or will she have become a mere figurehead? Will she be forced to appoint someone she does not want as premier?