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Home > East Asia > 

DPP needs humility, pragmatism
Paul Lin
12/31/2004

The results of the legislative elections are in. There were no major changes to the overall blue-green division of the political map. Looking deeper, however, several issues stand out.

First, there were great differences between the final outcome and pre-election opinion polls, with candidates gaining high approval ratings in the polls failing to get elected or just barely making it, and candidates with low approval ratings being elected by a landslide. This applied to a surprising number of candidates.

The main reason is that tactical voting aimed at saving weak candidates resulted in an "overcorrection." But couldn't it also be that the inaccuracy of the polls was a result of some opinion poll respondents deliberately giving misleading answers?

Second, in the pan-green camp, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) saw a small increase of two seats, while the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) lost one seat. A few long-standing legislators failed to get re-elected, making room for new legislators, although not necessarily by means of a deliberate generational transition.

Third, although the pan-blue camp saw a slight increase in seats, with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the New Party achieving excellent results by participating under the KMT banner, the People First Party (PFP) lost a quarter of its seats. This highlights the sharp division within the blue camp, and the public will now pay close attention to whether more PFP mem-bers join the KMT.

Fourth, the centrist Non-

Partisan Solidarity Union did not do too well, and ideologically less extreme blue and green candidates failed to get elected, for example the DPP's Shen Fu-hsiung and the KMT's Apollo Chen. Does this mean that centrist forces are weakening and that their space is shrinking? A polarization of the situation

and a withering away of centrist forces would be detrimental to Taiwan's society.

Fifth, the landslide victories of some candidates was clearly a result of sympathy voting, which is a reflection of the sympathetic nature of the Taiwanese public, who want to reach out to those in a difficult situation. This is a method that will be widely used by electoral candidates in future, to the point where voters will become numb and do nothing. However, indiscriminate use of the "sympathy" card clearly shows a lack of social responsibility.

Although there were no changes to the blue-green

political map, the green camp's unrealistically high expectations of winning a majority in combination with their advantage of being in government means that the minor increase in seats in fact should be seen as a defeat.

If this outcome was simply a matter of vote allocation, then so be it, because this system is on its way out.

More importantly, the DPP must review their campaign issues and means of implementing strategy. On the political spectrum, the TSU is dark green, while the DPP, as a result of being in power, should now be a lighter shade of green, as represented by the "middle way" that President Chen Shui-bian has promoted in the past.

However, toward the end of the campaign, Chen, who is also chairman of the DPP, brought out the slogan "correcting names." Although the slogan did not extend to the correction of the nation's official title as advocated by the TSU -- nor did it involve other major, sensitive issues, nor could it have been accomplished overnight -- this could not be clearly explained during the campaign, and was therefore mixed up with the TSU's proposal, leading to the loss of moderate voters.

Although the DPP tried hard to broaden its appeal, it did not succeed, and still had to compete with the TSU for votes.

So the blue camp maintains its legislative majority. If the blues continue their past opposition for the sake of opposition, only considering their own advantage, they will perpetuate Taiwan's political gridlock, and that is not good for the country.

After this battle, the DPP must take an even humbler approach when summing up its experiences and lessons learned.

It must carefully assess internal and external factors and create more pragmatic policies to straighten the road ahead and lead Taiwan toward the goal of obtaining regular national status.

Paul Lin is a commentator based in New York.

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