Today the Central Standing Committee of the governing Democratic Progressive Party will select an acting chairperson to replace current chairman Su Tseng-chang, who has resigned to take political responsibility for the DPP's grave setback in Saturday's "three-in-one" elections.
We strongly urge the new acting chairperson not to act merely as a caretaker, but take the initiative to launch immediately a campaign for thorough and comprehensive internal party reform.
We also urge the DPP to open the process of discussion and debate over its post-election re-examination and the directions of its internal organization and policy reform from the widest possible spectrum of party members, civic and social reform groups, the media and the general public.
The most urgent priority is undoubtedly organizational reform to rebuild the DPP's character and image as a party of integrity and reform and thus rebuild confidence of its basic supporters and the wider public.
The flap over the misconduct of ex-deputy presidential secretary-general Chen Che-nan and the implication of party members in the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corporation foreign labor brokering scandal clearly led to apathy among core DPP supporters as well as alienating independent voters.
The DPP should take heed of both the positive and negative aspects of this message, namely that electorate holds the party to far higher standards than the KMT in the field of integrity, and that the DPP must grasp the urgency of decisive action to clean its ranks if the party that led Taiwan's democratic "quiet revolution" is to regain public confidence.
Ironically, the DPP can consider taking a leaf from the Kuomintang and call for a complete re-registration of all its members and reissuance of party membership cards in order to purge proxy or other unsuitable members. Such moves may incite discontent, especially among local factions, but are absolutely necessary.
Perhaps the most urgent priority in organizational reform is the revamping of the DPP's nomination system, in which the insidious influence of KMT-style local factionalism has clearly spread.
Repeated attempts to revamp this system through differing weights to party member and cadre votes and public opinion polls have failed to resolve the fundamental problems, such as the use of proxy members, or lead to the nomination of progressive, high quality and effective candidates able to win public approval and support.
The most fundamental cure would be to promote the adoption of a publically-sponsored and administered primary system for the use of all political parties. Such a system would deliver a major blow to local factionalism and thus should also be welcomed by civic reform groups and reform advocates across the political spectrum, such as KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou.
The DPP should also make the best use of the positive aspect of the "three-in-one" elections as a channel for the cultivation of a new generation of activists grounded in grassroots politics, long considered to be an exclusive sphere for KMT "black and gold" money politics.
In races for city and county councils, the DPP improved its seat total from 114 to 192 and hiked its harvest of township mayors from 28 to 35, compared to January 2002. These gains can provide a hefty base for the DPP to engage in intensive monitoring of new KMT commissioners and as a platform for comebacks four years from now.
Uphold core democratic values
Moreover, we urge that the DPP carefully re-examine the strategies and tactics adopted during its last election campaigns and, even more importantly, convene a comprehensive review of the policies and programs of the DPP administration that also includes direct public input.
We urge the DPP not to interpret the poll results as a negation of its core values, including its position on Taiwan's national identity and advocacy of sustainable development and social equity and social justice.
The painful loss of Yilan County, which has acted for 24 years as the cradle and showcase for the party's developmental vision, was decidedly not a negation of the "Yilan Experience." Rather, this setback reflected the disappointment of demanding DPP voters, the negative impact of the "three-in-one elections" on efforts to constrain election bribery and the lack of charisma of the DPP's more qualified but more distant candidate.
Indeed, apathy among pan-green voters reflects disappointment in the inability of the DPP government to demonstrate consistency and achieve results in realizing its core values in ways that the people can perceive in terms of improvement in living standards and quality.
The main tactical failure of the DPP in this campaign was its inability to highlight the quality of its local "green" administration as a means to broaden substantial support beyond the ranks of those attracted to its position on Taiwan's national identity, especially the mainlander and Hakka communities.
The question of blame
Today, the Executive Yuan will also hold its first meeting in the wake of Saturday's electoral defeat with Premier Frank Hsieh still at the helm.
While we firmly believe that the DPP cannot wait for the election of a new chairperson to launch its internal organizational and policy reform drive, we believe that the major changes necessary in the DPP-led Executive Yuan should be adopted under the principle of "slower, but better."
The most important factor in the selection of a new premier or a major Cabinet reshuffle is that the best people be chosen to implement the best and most suitable policies that can bring a breath of fresh air and impart a genuine boost in public confidence.
In the meantime, we offer a final suggestion for some, if not most, of the critics of the governing party's performance in this campaign, inside and outside its ranks.
Instead of cherishing and providing critical support and assistance to Taiwan's first government to represent the democratic aspirations of the Taiwan people, all too many "nativist" or "democratic" personages have spent the past five years in infighting for position, bemoaning that the DPP government did not do what they wanted and raising demands that the DPP administration had no means to achieve.
If such people wish to find someone to "blame," we urge them to first look in the nearest mirror.