Friday, June 08, 2007

Calling Third Party: Your Opportunity is Knocking

One response to the deadlock between the Blues and the Greens that has done so much to paralyze governance on the island has been the constant search for a third party that might draw in the middle voters. The assumption that there is a middle between Blues and Greens being fundamentally incorrect (as I described last week), such attempts are more symptomatic than effective. More disturbingly, they are often the old politics in disguise, such as Shih Ming-te's fake anti-Chen protest movement. Or two new impulses that appeared recently...

One recent installment of this Urge to Third was former premier Tang Fei's attempt to build a society that would get out the middle voters to vote.

He said he was motivated to form the association after seeing the rising number of people becoming disillusioned with politics and not exercising their right to vote over the past seven years.

Tang said he wished to get these unmotivated people back into politics and work with them to find a way out for the nation by holding open forums.

"I have been thinking of a middle road for the country that is free of the issue of unification [with China] and [Taiwanese] independence," he said. "I don't want to see the country dragged down by the problem of unification or independence and fail to make progress as other countries do."

The association would not be a political party that would nominate candidates for elections nor be pro-blue or pro-green, he said.

Tang, a member of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), was the first premier appointed by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) when the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came to power in 2000.

It's a fundamental error to regard middle-of-the-roaders as neither Blue nor Green; they are always one or the other. But it would be great if the non-voters were brought into politics; most of them are potentially Green. However, Tang Fei's new group has some old names:

While the Chinese-language United Daily News reported yesterday that Tang was planning to invite critics Lung Ying-tai (龍應台), Nan Fang-shuo (南方朔) and National Chi Nan University Professor Li Chia-tung (李家同) to join the association, Tang yesterday declined to confirm.

Both Lung Ying-tai and Nan Fang-shuo are anti-Green critics of the current government. Lung has deftly positioned herself as a faux democracy advocate who can appeal to a wide set of audiences, as Roland Soong at ESWN, observes......

The fact is that Lung Ying-tai is a popular and esteemed figure in Chinese communities all over the world. You can spend your time trying to determine if she is a misguided fool, an undercover agent provocateur or a faux democrat, etc. Or else you can spend your time figuring why she has that kind of popularity. The answer to the latter question is more interesting and substantive than the first question.

...but of course, Roland, the answer to the first question also answers the second -- the reason she is popular is because she has carefully positioned herself as a champion of Establishment liberalism cast in democratic rhetoric, while maintaining a loyalty to Chinese identity she grew up with as a mainlander in Taiwan. Thus she appeals to a very wide set of audiences, since she doesn't threaten any of them.

Also up this week was another interesting crack at a Third Party: a farmers party. Aimed at reform of the thoroughly corrupt farmers associations? A-gu over at That's Impossible! has been tracking this story:

The Taiwan Farmers' Party (台灣農民黨) will be officially formed in Kaohsiung. It is being put together by the Farmer's and Fisherman's association (農漁會), a grass-roots organization who's leaders are largely native-Taiwanese and KMT sympathetic. The person in charge of forming the party is Hsiao Han-chun (蕭漢俊), director of the Kaohsiung County Farmers' Association. He is considered part of the "White faction" (白派), which is also what Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) is (as opposed to the Red or Black factions).

The announcement instantly sparked KMT outrage and fear of a split in the party.

Wang insists he knows nothing about it and had no hand in it, but says it won't hurt the KMT in particular but would affect all parties; Ma asked Wang to clarify and that he simply can't believe that Wang knew nothing about this; The KMT Central Standing Committee threatened to revoke party membership of anyone who joins the Farmers' Party (something party regulations provide for), though the Party Secretary said the situation wasn't that serious; and other high-ranking CSC people also said they don't believe Wang wasn't involved. KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung also said the KMT would continue to communicate with the Associations to prevent the party from being formed.

The Farmers' Party people say they aren't going to put up a presidential candidate in 2008 and only want to compete for at large seats in the legislative election (now set for January 12th of 2008).

If you are wondering about the significance about Taiwan in the party's name, I would suggest it might not mean very much. Taiwan already has a "Farmers' Party" (農民黨), so the decision could be based on the fact that two parties can't register the same name.

A-gu has a follow up article as well. What kind of party would this be? Well, the Taipei Times observes:

KMT Legislator Pai Tien-chih (白添枝) and Taiwan Provincial Farmer's Association (TPFA) director Chang Yong-cheng (張永成), both close to Wang, were also linked to the new party but similarly denied any involvement.

Pai is the powerful Chairman of this and that, and also runs a gravel company. Such men represent influential local faction interests. This party too looks simply like a faction-cum-party. It has been KMT policy to prevent the rise of stable, dominant local factions -- which historically have been present in all counties except Taipei, the KMT stronghold, and Nantou, Yunlin, and Penghu, where for many years local factions tended to be more diffuse -- to national level political power. In Kaohsiung county three stable factions dominate -- the white, red, and black, with the first two tending to be pro-KMT, while the third was nominally unaligned. These factions are so powerful that during the martial law era the KMT was compelled to rotate nominations for local offices among them.

In other words, Hsiao Han-chun, a member of the White Faction and head of the Kaohsiung County Farmers Association, is a powerful local figure with long-standing faction ties to the KMT. It is extremely unlikely that this is anything more than local politicians seeking to gain leverage by threatening to split the KMT, though observe that party leaders were quick to ask if Wang Jyn-ping, the Taiwanese KMT speaker of the legislature, was behind the move. There is a strong fear that Wang might run for President independently, thus splitting the Blue vote. While that chance seems remote at the moment, this move does, however, betoken the underlying grumbling going on among the Taiwanese factions within the KMT, and the long-term problems the KMT will face in managing the clash between a theology that demands the obliteration of a separate Taiwan, and a reality that determines that 80% of the party are native Taiwanese.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

3 cheers for becoming the gringo politico of taiwan...

will recommend you appropriately..