The DPP is afraid of the emerging third force
Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its standard bearer in next year’s presidential election, spatted with her party’s most influential former Chairman Lin Yihsiung early last week over her failure to help the newly formed New Power Party ( ) and Social Democratic Party ( ) field candidates for legislative elections. The presidential and legislative elections will take place on Jan. 16 next year.
While DPP Chairman Lin got Chen Shui-bian nominated for president in the election of 2000, but quit the party after Chen’s election. He succeeded in getting the Legislative Yuan to slash half of its seats, and forced the Kuomintang administration to suspend construction on Taiwan’s Fourth Nuclear Power Station, or Nuke 4, through his weeklong hunger strike. He is convinced that the DPP needs the help of the emerging third-force parties to break up the uninterrupted Kuomintang monopoly in the nation’s highest legislative organ.
On the other hand, Tsai has been buoyed by the landslide victory in the nationwide combined local elections last November and her successful “campaign” tour of the United States. She thinks she is invincible — Time Magazine just opined “She could lead the only Chinese democracy” — and can get more lawmakers ride into office on her coattails. She doesn’t wish to help the emerging third force.
Of course, Tsai is wrong. Lin certainly is right. According to a recent public opinion survey released by the Taiwan Brain Trust, 45 percent of the public intend to support the third-force political parties in next year’s legislative elections. Aside from the newly formed ones, the third-force parties include the old Taiwan Solidarity Alliance ( ), the Green Party ( ) and the Tree Party ( ). Shih Ming-teh, another former DPP chairman who organized the March of One Million in 2006 to topple President Chen Shui-bian in vain, is running for president as an independent. He may form one more third-force party.
What is the real reason Tsai refuses to support the third-force parties? She is afraid that they may erode the power of her party. That’s why Lin criticized her for “oppressing” the third-force parties. He even said he will vote for Shih for old time’s sake in the presidential election.
The third force is on the rise not just because the public is dissatisfied with the two major parties. There surely is a wider public expectation for a change on Taiwan’s political map through populist transformation. Young swing voters, who have given up hope on Taiwan’s abysmally lackluster two-party system, look forward to having a much more effective say in politics.
Unfortunately, they will be let down. Few of the thirdforce parties offer any inspiring and creative political visions. Like the DPP, they are just anti-Kuomintang and dedicated ideally to independence for Taiwan, which is impossible. Since the Kuomintang is ideally dedicated to eventual Chinese unification, the DPP and the third-force parties try to win elections by appealing to the anti-China sentiments of the people and their penchant for Taiwan independence.
More voters, if the voting age is lowered to 18, will support the third force. But these small parties won’t become the real third force, for they can’t offer forward-looking visions for solving the issue of independence versus unification, mitigating the endless conflicts between the two major parties and enabling Taiwan to join the international community against China’s opposition.
The future for the third force doesn’t bode well. Despite Tsai’s apprehension, the like of the New Power Party and Social Democratic Party won’t replace the DPP as the second force. They will be a mere wing of the DPP at best, just like an unnamed party the leaders of the Sunflower Movement that hijacked the Legislative Yuan for more than three weeks in the spring of 2014 are trying to form. The Sunflower student activists carried out the movement under guidance and with the support of Tsai’s opposition party.