Factions Pass the Baton, But DPP Sacred Cows Live On
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 4, 2016
Executive Summary: Some Party Representatives have already proposed the authoring of a new Party Platform during the upcoming Party Congress, one that substitutes “maintaining the status quo" for the "Three Major Resolutions". Will their proposal be successful or not? Frankly that is more important than any factional distribution of power within the Central Standing Committee and Central Executive Committee. Unfortunately, senior DPP officials have already decided to ignore their proposal. As a result, the proposal will be nothing more than “a dog chasing a train". The Party Congress will be reduced to nothing more than a DPP “company picnic”.
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The DPP will convene its Party Congress in the middle of this month. This is the first Party Congress it has convened since its return to power. Therefore it is receiving greater attention than others in the past. In particular, it will be the first election of Central Executive Committee and Central Standing Committee members. These are important to the party power structure. Will the attention given to this event be commensurate with its impact on the future? That remains to be seen.
According to Democratic Progressive Party regulations, 365 Party Representatives will elect 30 Central Executive Committee members, and 11 Central Committee Judges. The Central Executive Committee will then elect 10 Central Standing Committee members. Altogether 38 people have registered as candidates for the Central Executive Committee, and 16 people have registered as candidates for Central Committee judges. Based on the numbers, competition is not particularly fierce. What has attracted attention is former Central Executive Committee members Frank Hsieh and Yu Hsi-kun, who are fading out and being replaced. Less than half the 13 current Central Executive Committee members are seeking reelection. Only four of the current Central Committee judges are seeking re-election. Party officials are being replaced at a surprisingly rapid rate.
But closer scrutiny shows that these new elites, who are about to enter the DPP power center, are not actual power holders, but merely factional representatives. These seven factions include the Tsai Ing-wen faction, the Chen Chu faction, the Frank Hsieh faction, the Su Tseng-chang faction, the Green Friendship Connection, the Yu Hsi-kun faction, and the so-called "Hai Pai". Whether the candidates will win or lose depends upon the relative strengths of the factions, but even more importantly, on all manner of factional quid pro quos.
The most interesting aspect of all this, is DPP boasts that it "abolished factions" years ago. In fact, whether the DPP was in the opposition or in power, factions remained. They merely changed names. The "Welfare State faction" became the "Frank Hsieh faction", the "Mei Li Dao faction” became the "Green Friendship Connection", and the "New Wave faction" became the “Chen Chu faction". The "abolition of factions" claim is even more ironic, now that the DPP has reassumed power.
The faction that has attracted the most attention is the “Hai Pai” faction. It represents the owner of a certain television station. He has backed two candidates for the Central Executive Committee. He may be the person every faction wants to cozy up to during the Central Standing Committee election. As we all know, the DPP has long held high the banner of social justice and "separating political parties, the government, and the military from the media" and "opposition to a media monopoly". Now however, the media has its own faction within the ruling DPP, in a naked attempt to share power and participate in policy making. How can the DPP possibly rationalize this?
These factions compete with each other for party offices. But the power center remains in the Presidential Office, not the Party Central Committee. Also, the DPP central government and local governments enjoy “total rule”. Executive powers are held by the Executive Yuan and local governments. Legislative powers are held by the Legislative Yuan and local leguislatures. Under such a division of powers between the party and the government, the Central Executive Committee members and Central Standing Committee members exercise very little power. They are akin to past KMT Central Standing Committee members, who are allowed to express themselves, but do little else.
One role that DPP party officials may be able to fulfill is determining the DPP's future by determining its party platform. After all, the DPP's ideological sacred cows, including Taiwan independence and the founding of a new nation, the Resolution on Taiwan's Future, and the Resolution for a Normal Nation, were the result of party decisions. If the DPP changes its ideological path, and moves toward the middle or toward Taiwan independence, it will do so via the party machinery. Only party officials have the authority to alter party policy.
Of course, power within the party is held by President Tsai, who is also Party Chairman Tsai. Any amendment to the party platform would require her approval or at least acquiescence. These historic documents have bound the DPP hand and foot, making progress in cross-Strait relations impossible for the foreseeable future. Even "maintaining the status quo" is now impossible. Despite all this, the likelihood that the situation will change is near zero.
Some Party Representatives have already proposed the authoring of a new Party Platform during the upcoming Party Congress, one that substitutes “maintaining the status quo" for the "Three Major Resolutions". Will their proposal be successful or not? Frankly that is more important than any factional distribution of power within the Central Standing Committee and Central Executive Committee. Unfortunately, senior DPP officials have already decided to ignore their proposal. As a result, the proposal will be nothing more than “a dog chasing a train". The Party Congress will be reduced to nothing more than a DPP “company picnic”.