Monday, July 9, 2007

Who can offer Hope for the Future

Who can offer Hope for the Future
China Times editorial
translated by Bevin Chu
June 9, 2007

Frank Hsieh's announcement of his running mate must await the result of opinion polls. But this is probably only a way to allow everyone to save face. Su Tseng-chang has officially announced that he will not accept the vice presidential slot. Barring the unexpected, the Democratic Progressive Party will be endorsing a Hsieh/Yeh ticket. In other words, the ruling and opposition party tickets for the 2008 presidential race are pretty much set. Preliminary opinion polls suggest that a large part of the public is adopting a wait and see attitude.

The choice of running mates has long been a problem. The key is whether the candidate can affect the outcome of the election. The choice of presidential and vice presidential candidates offers all sorts of promises. It can create political momentum that leads to certain victory. In 2000, the Chen/Lu ticket offered the promise of gender equality. In 2004, the Lien/Soong ticket offered the promise of Pan Blue solidarity. Looking forward to 2008, the Blue vs. Green struggle is a whole new ball game. Lee, Chen, Lien, and Soong have determined Taiwan's political situation for the past six or seven years. In 2008 the will no longer be able to do so. What promises do a Hsieh/Yeh ticket or a Ma/Siew ticket offer? That is the question.

The Ma/Siew ticket was formed first. This ticket has provoked debate over the adoption of "ben tu" nativism and a potential Deep Blue backlash. But expert observers perceive these as secondary issues, as efforts at preemption. Pandering to nativism and ethnic identity has never been the Blue camp's strong suit. The Blue camp is not about to linger on a battlefield that is the Green camp's natural stomping ground. The promise that the Ma/Siew ticket hopes to offer is "good governance." This ticket came as a surprise, not entirely because of Siew's ideological path and political stance. Ma and Siew have different provincial backgrounds, but they duplicate each other's strengths more than they complement them. Both are technocrats and political appointees. Siew briefly held the post of party official and lawmaker. But his image as a financial and economic expert overshadows all else. This may well be the image this ticket aims to achieve.

If we look only at election considerations, this ticket is unpromising. Neither Ma nor Siew are charismatic speakers. Neither has the ability to inspire crowds during political rallies. On the other hand, such bland personalities also make it difficult for the opposition to create polarization. The promise of a Ma/Siew ticket is the return of the KMT responsible for Taiwan's economic miracle during the 70s and 80s, rather than the KMT burdened by allegations about illicit party assets and black gold or internecine power struggles. The voters most susceptible to such appeals are of course, older voters.

In contrast to the Ma/Siew ticket, the promise of a Hsieh/Yeh ticket is completely different. Hsieh and Yeh share the same ideology. Disagreements are unlikely to arise between them as they carry the Green banner into battle. Their differing backgrounds, meanwhile, complement each other. They promise the same gender equality as the Chen/Lu ticket. They also promise Hoklo/Hakka ethnic harmony. These are two promises that Su Tseng-chang could not offer as a running mate. Most importantly, a Hsieh/Yeh ticket offers the promise of a DPP that everyone is familiar with, the one that rebelled against KMT authority during the 80s and 90s, the one that promised democracy and reform, the one that continually met with political persecution, instead of a DPP burdened by an embarrassing record of incompetence and that descended swiftly into corruption after assuming power. Hsieh and Yeh each administered the southern Taiwan city of Kaohsiung, one after the other, defending this essential base for the DPP. Frank Hsieh has maintained relations that are neither too friendly nor too hostile toward Chen Shui-bian. He chose to cooperate with Yeh Chu-lan. He removed Chen Shui-bian's finger from the scales of power. He effectively drew a line between himself and Chen. The same is true of the promise for the Ma/Siew ticket for older generation voters.

Now we can look back and see why neither Ma nor Hsieh were eager to pick the most obvious running mates. The reason is simple. A Ma/Wang ticket or a Hsieh/Su ticket may have been a dream team in the eyes of some supporters. But those four would have fought over the presidential slot. Whoever settled for the vice presidential slot would have felt that he had knuckled under. Such a shotgun wedding between factions rather than candidates would not engender harmony. It would provoke fighting over spoils and struggles over power. The result would not be "one plus one equals more than two.' It would be "one minus one equals zero." Teaming Vincent Siew with Ma Ying-jeou, or Yeh Chu-lan Yu with Frank Hsieh, on the other hand, would not yield such negative results.

The DPP vice presidential running mate controversy may continue for quite some time, but the final result is unlikely to be a surprise. The problem has dragged on too long. What truly matters is whether the final choice of running mate can offer real hope for the future.

中國時報  2007.07.09


對朝野陣營而言,副手問題之所以會困擾那麼許久,關鍵即在於人選誰屬確實能牽動選局,特別是正副人選所塑造出的想像空間,可以營造一定的勝選氣勢,例如二 ○○○年的陳呂配即成功塑造了兩性共治的想像空間,而二○○四的連宋配即是塑造了泛藍大團結的想像空間。前瞻二○○八,對藍綠陣營而言某種程度上都是暫時歸零的一年,主導台灣政局六、七年之久的李扁連宋四人,某種程度上都不能再左右選局,因而謝葉配與馬蕭配究竟能營造怎樣的想像空間?是個饒富趣味的課題。






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