Tuesday, December 13, 2005

DPP in a Mess

Factional fights, parties in disagreement, needed reforms not in view, unnecessary infighting sucking down energy. Yes, it must be politics on the Beautiful Island. The DPP party chairman election heats up. The Financial Times reports in three simple paragraphs:

Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive party is heading for a power struggle that could paralyse the government after an open argument broke out yesterday between Annette Lu, vice-president, and Chen Shui-bian, president.

Ms Lu resigned as interim party chair less than a week after taking over in the wake of her party's defeat in recent local elections. Ms Lu said reforms appeared to be "out of reach". "Then why should I be sacrificed in factional power struggles?" she said.

Over the past few days, rumours surfaced that Mr Chen had voiced dissatisfaction over Ms Lu taking too high a profile in her interim post.

The Taipei Times has a more nuanced view of things:

At around 7pm yesterday, the Presidential Office issued a short press release saying that Lu intended to resign as the DPP's acting chairperson, since "she does not want to be a sacrificial offering in the struggle between factions." Lu became the DPP's acting chairperson just last Wednesday.

Meanwhile, according to DPP officials and lawmakers, Presidential Office Secretary-General Yu Shyi-kun has been persuaded to run for his party's chairmanship to help stabilize the president's hold on power.

Hello folks! We have a country to run! Get your ducks in order and run it. Lu tried to do that, and in the Chinese tradition of "the tall tree attracts the wind", was immediately shot down:

On Saturday, Lu said that she was "watching the DPP on behalf of President Chen" when she inspected the troubled construction site for the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit System. According to a report in the Liberty Times, Chen, who has struggled over the past week to keep different factions in the DPP balanced and avoid becoming a lame duck after the election result, was displeased with Lu's remarks and criticized her for going "too far" in her remarks in Kaohsiung.

Chen reportedly expressed discontent over Lu's hard-charging manner. Lu's recent activities, including inspecting the site in Kaohsiung and planning a meeting on party reform, has led to criticism that she was too obviously trying to position herself as a candidate for the 2008 presidential election.

Annette Lu is no threat to be a Presidential candidate (at least, I hope not) and I applaud her move to at least appear decisive and leaderly. As the Veep she has no real role, so there is no reason she can't take a more proactive view of things DPP. For all that she can spout annoying eccentricities, her political sense is often spot on:

Lu has suggested punishment for DPP Legislator Peter Lin (林進興) over his involvement in questioning Taichung Mayor Jason Hu's health and releasing Hu's medical records during the election campaign.

Yup. Hang that bastard out to dry. Here is a chance for the DPP to publicly discipline one of its own members who has clearly violated ethical principles, and gain some plaudits from the public. Yet it can't be done, because of the DPP's faction problems. More on the Party views of the Chen-Lu issue in the Taipei Times.

The TT also notes of Yu:

A high-ranking official who was one of Yu's staff members when he served as the premier said on condition of anonymity that Yu is now planning to join in the election for the DPP chairmanship because many different factions voiced support for him running against Lu.

The official said that Yu gets along well with Chen and is more "trustworthy" from the president's perspective. Yu is also a candidate who is accepted by the DPP's two main factions, the New Tide (新潮流) faction and the Justice Alliance (正義連線), and this could help the president stabilize his power in the DPP, the official said.

"President Chen has good communication with Yu and I think Yu might be a candidate who can coordinate the government and the party to be more consistent in policy," DPP Legislator Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) said.

I think the new party Chair is going to be very shocked when he finds out that his position may entail him taking a very different stance from Chen's on many issues, and conflict breaks out between them. Further, the new Chair should not focus on the lame duck Chen, but should move forward with both the 2006 legislative elections, which may require putting Chen in the background, as well as selecting the candidate for 2008. Yu's election to the DPP chair may well seal that; as he has long been mentioned as a possible candidate for President. The Chairmanship would give him the inside track on the 2008 DPP candidacy. Here's the Wiki article on Yu.

At the moment, I'd like to see someone much younger than Yu, someone not associated with Chen, and someone with a forward-looking and progressive viewpoint come to the Chairmanship. Taiwan desperately needs to evolve out of the East Asian model of politics in which the Party simply becomes the personal fief of whoever is the Chairman. In the Party-State under the KMT, the real power lay with the Chairman of the KMT, a position usually held by the President of the ROC. One of the DPP's problems is that its political models, the Japanese and the KMT, were both factionalized colonial state apparatuses, and so the DPP has never had a political model in which the Party chairman's goal was not to turn the Party into his personal fief. That is one reason why the reaction to Lu is so strong, because traditionally the Party serves the Chairman, and so DPP members reacted in automatic mode, fearing that the DPP would now become a Lu Party. What we need now is a young Chairman who can focus on the DPP's electoral goals rather than on advancing his status in the Party, and arbitrate between the DPP's major factions.


Sun Bin said...

i had a lot fo respect for annette lu recently. she was also the only sober DPP in the recent election. in fact, her crying wolf (and that was real wolf) strategy could have gained a few percentage points of votes for DPP, if not jeopardized by her shorted-sighted colleagues.

this is a dilemma to DPP.

1. choose Yu, that would please the factions and middle managers in DPP, and fall back to the pre-election mess
2. choose Lu, and please the public, crush the factions for the time being (Lu does not belong to any faction, right?)

perhaps DPP should learn from KMT, use a general party poll to choose its party boss.
see? the problem is, KMT has reformed, but DPP was stuck with the old KMT model.

should party chairman run for the president?
in UK it does, because the Premier is selected by M.P.
but Taiwan's system looks more like the US one. are Kerry or Bush presidents of their own parties? that is what DPP and also KMT need to think about.

Michael Turton said...

Thanks for those comic quotes, rmdazwdv!

but Taiwan's system looks more like the US one. are Kerry or Bush presidents of their own parties? that is what DPP and also KMT need to think about.

That's essentially what I was saying above. What the DPP needs is a professional party manager who can focus on electioneering, especially fundraising, not a politician interested in furthering his career. Lu will never make a good chairman, not so much because she'd do a bad job, but because the disgruntled party heavyweights would constantly be intriguing against her.


Sun Bin said...

Su was the person. It wasn't really his fault in losing the election. He would come back as chairman in due time.

But if he is going to run for the prez, then he has one too many job. again, back to your thesis.

Jason said...

"perhaps DPP should learn from KMT, use a general party poll to choose its party boss.
see? the problem is, KMT has reformed, but DPP was stuck with the old KMT model."

That was so right on, it brought tears to my eyes.

An open poll would probably put a pretty big dent in inter-factional horse-trading, something the New Tide would never stand for.

Anonymous said...

I can't tell at the moment who is going to be the big winner in the DPP from all this. ANyone else got a bead?


Anonymous said...

Jason & Sun Bin: The DPP already has an open and democratic way of selecting the party head - they've been allowing all DPP members to vote on party head for quite some years.

Of course, that doesn't effect the politicking that goes on in who stands for the position (for example when Su was elected, there was obviously some deal amongst the heavyweights as to who would get what, so noone stood against him). But this is *exactly the same* in the KMT: the pressure on Ma was huge when he was standing against Lien's chosen one.

The big difference is ... the KMT has an obvious leader who all KMT people like who could stand against the wishes of the other KMT heavyweights. Who have the DPP got?

I'm actually coming round to the idea of Lu as party head (and not just for the comedy potential). Whoever is in charge has to have the balls to stand up to the other senior members, have the respect of party members, already have power in the DPP (it'd be nice to see a fresh face, but we've already got a "lame duck" president, no need for a "lame duck" chairman as well!), and needs to be unsullied by the various corruption scandals. Who else apart from Lu comes close to fitting that profile?

Oh, and one other thing: I don't see the DPP Chair as a stepping stone to presidential candidacy. The only DPP Chair to become a candidate (ignoring CSB in 2004 as he became DPP head after becoming president) was ... Hsu Hsin-liang who stood as an independent against the DPP.

Michael Turton said...

Very good thoughts, David. I too have been liking Lu more and more as the DPP chair. Things should be very interesting. Since she is not really a viable Presidential candidate, she might be an excellent choice, always assuming she realizes that it is her place to focus on the DPP, and not on advancing herself. And she has the right weight to arbitrate among the factions. On the other hand, I wanted this position to highlight someone up and coming, to develop some talent.