A Third Force Could Influence the Outcome of the Election
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 26, 2011
Summary: In his bid for president, People First Party Chairman James Soong has launched a petition drive. James Soong boasts about a "million signature petition." His vice presidential running mate, Professor Lin Jui-hsiung, vows that "If we receive fewer than one million signatures, we will not run." Other People First Party spokespersons have publicly vowed that "As long as we achieve the minimum number of signatures required by law, it won't matter whether we collect a million signatures or not. James Soong will run." The likelihood that a third force will enter the 2012 presidential race has significantly increased. Moreover, this third force clearly has a good chance of influencing the outcome of the election.
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In his bid for president, People First Party Chairman James Soong has launched a petition drive. James Soong boasts about a "million signature petition." His vice presidential running mate, Professor Lin Jui-hsiung, vows that "If we receive fewer than one million signatures, we will not run." Other People First Party spokespersons have publicly vowed that "As long as we achieve the minimum number of signatures required by law, it won't matter whether we collect a million signatures or not. James Soong will run." The likelihood that a third force will enter the 2012 presidential race has significantly increased. Moreover, this third force clearly has a good chance of influencing the outcome of the election.
Direct presidential elections have been held on Taiwan for some time now. But is there room for a third force besides the KMT and DPP? Politicians and the public have both been asking this veryquestion. Over the past decade or so, there has been the New Party, the People First Party, and the Taiwan Solidarity Union. There has also been the Red Shirts. It had no formal organization, but some referred to as the Red Party. Former DPP legislator Hsu Jung-shu referred to the Red Shirts as the "biggest party of all -- the people." Several political parties have from time to time achieved some degree of notoriety or fame. But the most important election is the presidential election. Here, they have had little opportunity to compete. The 2012 presidential election may be the key event that determines whether a third force will have a say. From this perspective, Blue camp supporters may feel anxious. But they cannot evade their duty. They must use their votes to tell aspiring third force politicians to accept political reality.
Just exactly what role can a third force play in the political process? Before the New Party was founded, it was preceded by the "New KMT Connection." It was already influencing the legislative process. A third or fourth party can indeed play a pivotal role. When the People First Party was at the height of its power, it too played a pivotal role between the KMT and DPP. It influenced legislation, budgets, even personnel appointments, For example, when the Chen family corruption scandal erupted, former Prosecutor General Chen Tsung-ming was the focus of controversy. Support from the People First Party enabled his approval in the legislature.
Whether third force influence enhances the people's livelihood, the people's interests, or creates more turbulence, is a matter of opinion. This is especially true when more and more legislation requires ruling and opposition party compromise. Consultation between the two largest parties may not be enough. Consultation with smaller parties or independents may be required. Backroom deals have long tarnished the image of the legislature. For example, during the first Chen administration, none of the three largest parties commanded an absolute majority. The DPP regime exploited the lack of a legislative majority by exerting monetary or judicial pressure, It used threats or inducements to bend legislators to the ruling DPP's will, The Chen regime boasted that it would increase integrity in government. Not only did it not combat black gold, it was even more corrupt than its predecessor.
The People First Party clings to a superstitious belief in the power of political manipulation. It is determined to walk the line between the KMT and the DPP. In 2004, it collaborated with Lien Chan during the presidential election. In 2006, it held secret meetings with Chen Shui-bian. Controversy erupted over cross-Strait communications. In the end, the People First Party wound up persona non grata to both Blue Camp and Green Camp supporters, Blue Camp supporters cannot forgive Soong for the secret Chen/Soong Meetings, Even Chen Shui-bian has repeatedly blasted James Soong from his prison cell, accusing Soong of failing to fulfill his mission.
Soong is indeed a rare talent in the political arena. Few people can match his political and administrative ability. He has experienced many ups and downs over the decades, but still commands the loyalty of his core supporters. But even more people are filled with doubts about his trickery, for the very same reason. For the sake of political advantage, Soong can be your enemy today and your friend tomorrow. It may be true that in politics there are no permanent enemies or permanent friends. But if one's friends and foes are based entirely on political interests and considerations of power, how can one possibly win another person's trust?
James Soong long ago declared that he was retiring from politics. Now however, he has popped up again. The Blue and Green parties may react differently. But both know James Soong cannot win, All he can do is act as a spoiler. The Green Camp is only too happy to see James Soong run as an independent. The Blue Camp is worried James Soong may remain in the race to the bitter end, They are both concerned, because the most likely consequence of James Soong's presidential bid is a replay of the 2000 change in ruling parties. As the saying goes, what's past is prologue. We have already endured the 2000 change in ruling parties. We have already suffered through eight years of Democratic Progressive Party misrule. Do we really need to relive this ordeal?
James Soong enjoys far less momentum today than he did in 2000. Yet he still commands a certain degree of support. Why? Because neither of the two major parties, Blue or Green, has been able to win the people's hearts. The DPP is not to blame for the current situation. Democratic Progressive Party rule was ineffectual and scandal-ridden. The DPP paid the price when it was ejected from office. But the KMT lost power once before. It regained that power with great difficulty, but showed itself incapable of serious soul-searching. After regaining power, it missed the opportunity to reunite the Blue Camp. As a result, Ma Ying-jeou's second term is in serious jeopardy.
Any independent party candidate has a constitutionally guaranteed right to run for president, It makes no difference whether they emerged from the same camp or not, James Soong does not need to worry about whether his candidacy will derail Ma Ying-jeou's bid for a second term. If Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP win as a result of Soong, they will have nothing to boast about. James Soong petitioned with all his might for 45 days. The KMT faces enemies front and rear. Even if it fails to win an absolute majority, it must win at least 45% of the vote to be safe. When the People First Party or a third force has its back to the wall, it is a test of the two major parties.