Non-DPP Running Mate a Headache for Tsai Ing-wen
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 2, 2011
Summary: The presidential election is only four months away. DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen has not been able to finalize her choice of running mate. This is not just a headache for Tsai Ing-wen. The running mate issue has inadvertently exposed one of the DPP's chronic aliments.
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The presidential election is only four months away. DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen has not been able to finalize her choice of running mate. This is not just a headache for Tsai Ing-wen. The running mate issue has inadvertently exposed one of the DPP's chronic aliments.
In theory, the vice president is merely a back up for the president. Unless of course the president is willing to share power. Otherwise, historically speaking, the vice president is usually a person without a voice. Annette Lu even characterized herself as a "neglected concubine hidden away in the imperial harem." The vice presidency is a high office with little authority. But during election season, it takes on inordinate importance, The president's choice of running mate is both art and science.
In nations with vice-presidents, the presidential candidate often picks a vice presidential running mate to make up for what he lacks. U.S. President Barack Obama picked veteran Senator Joe Biden as his running mate, to make up for his own lack of experience, This was considered a brilliant move. By the same token, his opponent, John McCain, sought out Sarah Palin to be his running mate. The idea was to win the women's vote. But Palin surprised everyone with her ineptitude in the political arena. She became a deficit to the McCain presidential campaign.
Similarly, ever since the Republic of China began holding direct presidential elections, the choice of vice presidential running mate has always involved power considerations. Examples include the Lee Teng-hui/Lien Chan ticket and the Lien Chan/Vincent Siew ticket. Back then Lee Teng-hui was masterminding the election campaign, and had certain succession considerations, That was why he ruled out the Lien/Soong ticket. But his decision touched a sensitive nerve within the party, The eventual result was a lose/lose proposition.
Soon afterwards, the balance of power became a key consideration. A running mate was no longer an implicit successor. For example, during Chen Shui-bian's 2004 re-election bid, he stuck with Annette Lu as his running mate. This allowed factional leaders within the party to hold out hope. Only then would they campaign on his behalf during the general election. When President Ma Ying-jeou first ran for president, he chose Vincent Siew. The idea was that Vincent Siew would be the elder statesman, and look after the nation. This would prevent tension within the party. This time, Ma Ying-jeou chose Premier Wu Den-yih as his vice presidential running mate, The two candidates have roughly the same political experience and the same seniority. Ma's choice of running mate did not imply that his vice presidential running mate would also be his successor.
Given such precedents, which model will Tsai Ing-wen adopt in her choice of running mate? She is afraid to even mention her model for succession. Even Chen Shui-bian, at the height of his power, was afraid to designate a successor. Tsai Ing-wen is merely a nominal overlord within the DPP. So far Tsai Ing-wen has reiterated a need to expand the party's base of support within society. The implication is that the ideal running mate would be chosen from outside the party. If so, her primary consideration must be the balance of power within the party.
Currently the "Two Sus" are the most popular candidates within the party. But both lack power. Most DPP supporters want Tsai Ing-wen to choose Su Tseng-chang as her running mate. For them, that would be a dream team. Such a ticket would have more charisma than a Tsai Ing-wen/Peng Hui-nan ticket. But whether Tsai Ing-wen and Su Tseng-chang can become running mates does not hinge upon whether Tsai and Su can get along. It does not hinge upon whether Su Tseng-chang has committed a breach of faith. The biggest player during the party primaries was Frank Hsieh. The key is whether Hsieh can accept a Tsai/Su ticket, As for Su Chia-chuan, his supporters are enthusiastic. But significant intraparty opposition remains, particularly among the New Tide Faction, the most powerful faction within the party, It does not want to see Su Chia-chuan suddenly emerge as a major player.
Tsai Ing-wen is actively seeking outside talent. To some extent, she is attempting to defuse the power struggle within the party. A running mate from outside the party would have the name but not the game. He would not constitute a threat to party insiders. He could help the DPP party factions reach a consensus. Contrast this with the KMT. Ma Ying-jeou is not as adept at defusing power struggles within the party. For some time grassroots members have been discontent. But the KMT does not have DPP style factional politics. If DPP factions go at each other, Tsai Ing-wen will have her hands full.
Factionalism is not the only hidden malady bedeviling the DPP. Another problem is the party's "monoculture," both ideologically and in the character of its membership. Why is the ideal running mate not from within the party, but instead from without? Why must the runnng mate be Perng Hui-nan? The subtext is clear. If the Democratic Progressive Party returns to power, but lacks Perng Hui-nan's endorsement, voters do not believe the DPP can offer the nation a sound fiscal policy.
DPP talent is drawn almost exclusively from its elected officials, They may be brave and fierce in battle. But after conquering the world, they do not necessarily know how to govern it, The ability to campaign is not the ability to govern. Political rhetoric is no substitue for sound policy. Tsai Ing-wen has published her "Taiwan Next: Platform for the Coming Decade." She is attempting to compensate for this deficiency. But no stack of policy papers can compare with the endorsement of a fiscal policy veteran. No wonder Tsai Ing-wen waited three months for Perng Hui-nan to give the nod.
Without Perng Hui-nan, Tsai Ing-wen would still have found a running mate. But other problems are even more intractable. The balance of terror between DPP factions has infected the party to its very core. The problem has plagued the party from the moment it was founded. The DPP rose to power by taking to the streets. Even though it has been the ruling party, even though many years have gone by, it has never changed its ways. It still knows only how to protest, not how to govern. The public still does not trust DPP leaders to govern, This is the biggest problem the party faces.