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Three Major Tasks Await DPP's New Chairperson
Paul Lin

The Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) chairmanship election race is heating up. It is good to note that the general tone of the campaign is high, with the candidates vying for votes by explaining their ideals and opinions, and that so far there have been no vote-buying scandals. This is in complete contrast to the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) recent chairmanship election, where attacks on opponents claiming that they were engaged in black gold politics, proponents of Taiwan independence or followers of former president Lee Teng-hui were rife. These ruthless election tactics led to internal problems that still remain unsolved.

The peaceful nature of the DPP chairmanship election race does not, however, mean that party members are indifferent or that there is no controversy -- the election does, after all, concern the future of the party and should at least serve to restore its fortunes. The three candidates have vastly different qualities: one being an experienced veteran of the Taiwan independence movement, another a co-founder of the party who has a wealth of experience in government and party affairs, and the third, a new face who has long worked at the party's grassroots level. We will have to wait and see what kind of leader DPP members will choose.

A consensus exists, however, on the three main issues affecting the DPP's future direction -- sovereignty, reforms and clean government.

Apart from not weakening the status of Taiwan's sovereignty, the sovereignty issue also means protecting Taiwan's mainstream values. This involves dealing with the cross-strait relationship in a firm manner while using both caution and skill. Legislator Chai Trong-rong and former Presidential Office secretary-general Yu Shyi-kun are both tough, and based on her grassroots credentials, it appears that former Changhua County commissioner Wong Chin-chu is no pushover. When Su Tseng-chang became party chairman, he immediately brought in Tung Li-wen from the dangwai (outside the party) era and gave him the important post of director of the party's Department of Chinese Affairs in a show of his understanding of the party's weaknesses.

Regarding reform, this basically means party-based structural reform. One of the main reasons behind the DPP's failure over the past few years has been that the party has not yet made the transformation from an opposition party into a governing party. As a result of this, it has neglected to improve its ability to govern and instead remained an election machine. It has also neglected to tackle the corruption that inevitably follows upon the accession to power. Reform does not mean severing all ties with the past; some elements must remain in place together with new creative elements. Nor does it imply a complete separation of party and government officials -- rather, there must be both cooperation and separation, both assistance and supervision.

And finally, clean government. Apart from distancing itself from corruption and scandals, this should also mean steering clear of fame or benefits, being prepared to make sacrifices, trusting people, and meeting with grassroots party members and people in general. Only by maintaining close contact with its grassroots will the DPP be able to cast off the shackles the KMT has used to restrict Taiwan over the past 50 years.

In addition, it is hoped that the new DPP chairperson will be tolerant and adopt a comprehensive approach that rises above personal quarrels. This is the only way to unite a party that is currently involved in factional disputes. The new chairperson will be taking over the helm at a difficult juncture, and will have a long, hard road ahead.

Paul Lin is a New York-based political commentator.

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