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Lessons the DPP should heed from the elections
The failure of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)'s campaign strategy for the legislative elections has probably taught it some lessons, but what these are and how long they will impact on the party's thinking is uncertain. Since the DPP came to power in 2000, I have made numerous visits to Taiwan to observe the political scene, including the two elections this year. I would like to offer some observations.
First, take the "middle path" to realize independence. Taiwan's democracy has been hard-won and it is a model for Chinese society. Facing threats from China, these achievements could be destroyed at any time. Because of Taiwan's unique political situation and historical background, it is necessary for the DPP to build a popular consensus through the promotion of a "middle path." This path should span the center of the political spectrum, and should mean holding a steady pace on the road to independence, but which at the same time misses no opportunity to press ahead and consolidate centrist opinion. But it must be remembered that the middle path is only a means, and the DPP must remain clear about its goals.
Second, replace the old motivation with a new one. The DPP started out as a "tangwai", or "outside the Chinese Nationalist Party") organization and used its sense of oppression to mobilize the public and build consensus. After Lee Teng-hui be-came president, and especially since the DPP came to power, the rights and wrongs of history have largely been sorted out. But the authoritarian era has left us with stubborn politicians who refuse to change with the times. In dealing with such figures, the DPP must retain a sense of proportion if it is to avoid accusations it is fomenting ethnic antagonism.
Now, the problem is oppression from China, which is hindering Taiwan from becoming a normal country. It is the sorrow over this that the DPP can use to mobilize the Taiwanese people.
Third, develop comprehensive policy-making bodies and processes. During the election campaign, and even before that, the DPP generated a huge number of issues, and also had to respond to issues that the opposition used to disparage the government. The rapid appearance of so many issues, often not presented clearly and easily distorted by the media, is a cause for concern. Misunderstandings with the US are partially due to this, and subsequent communications have not gone smoothly. New issues have arisen before old ones were resolved, which has only confused the public. It is therefore important to have a well-structured system for dealing with these issues.
Fourth, reach out to the grass-roots. One lesson that the legislative elections taught is that grass-roots issues are important, and in reaching out to the grass-roots the DPP lacks the local connections that the blue camp has built up over 50 years.
The county commissioner and mayoral elections next year will be another battle to attract grass-roots votes. If the pan-greens do not utilize their advantage as the ruling party and make appropriate preparations, then they are likely to face another setback, which will in turn have a negative impact on the DPP's performance in the 2008 presidential elections.
If Taiwan wants to survive and grow, it must step out into the international community, but without a solid foundation at home, how can it do this?
Finally, the DPP must not forget that its status has changed. It now represents the nation and not just the party. Resigning as chairman of the DPP will help President Chen Shui-bian better perform his role as a president for all the people, but the party must also coordinate closely with him. Power breeds corruption, arrogance and complacence; the DPP would do well to remain on its guard.
Paul Lin is a commentator based in New York.
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