Candidates in the by-election for the chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party began verbal sparring yesterday.
The candidates drew lots for the numerical designation at a ceremony at the DPP headquarters in Taipei yesterday, with for former presidential secretary-general Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃) drawing "one," Legislator and DPP central standing committee member Trong Chai (蔡同榮) drawing "two," and former Changhua County magistrate and ex-legislator Wong Chin-chu, who was not present, given "three."
Vice President and interim DPP Chairman Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) said that the drawing symbolized the official start to the campaign and said all three candidates were outstanding and any one of them would "bring a new atmosphere and hope to the DPP."
She urged DPP members to watch the upcoming televised debates and vote in the by-election on January 15, saying that "the DPP has frankly accepted the reality" of its defeat in the "three-in-one" local elections December 3.
"The 19-year-old DPP is still young and vigorous," she said, adding that although the DPP had "tripped up," it would "quickly stand up and march forward."
Responding to questions from reporters after the drawing, Yu said that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) had "full justification" to appeal Wednesday's ruling by the Taipei District Court that ordered the president to publicly apologize and pay NT$1 each to former Kuomintang chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜). Chen had accused them instigating an abortive "soft coup" last March, without sufficient evidence according to the court ruling.
Yu, who was premier during the chaos that followed the March 20, 2004 election, said that Lien and Soong should apologize to citizens for the months-long chaos that resulted from the refusal of the pan-blue ticket to accept the results.
Yu said that during the chaos that followed pan-blue supporters occupied Ketagalan Boulevard and some pan-blue opposition legislators had commanded cars to crash into judicial offices as well as called for the "storming" of the presidential offices.
The debates begin
In a separate news conference at the National Taiwan University Hospital, Yu said that "a progressive DPP should grasp the guiding power" to set the agenda on reform.
He said the DPP had acted as "Taiwan's progressive force" for the past two decades by setting the agenda for reforms including political democratization, social security, sustainable development, non-nuclear home and sunshine laws.
But he said that the party had gradually "lost its sense of pride and honor" over the past five years due to its inability to realize its programs.
"Many party members have told me that they can accept that the party's ideals cannot be realized all at once, but they cannot accept that the party should lose its sense of ideals," said Yu, adding that "if we lose our ideals, not everyone will know why we are fighting."
Yu said that during the past five years, the role of the party and the nature of party-government relations "was not sufficiently clear."
Yu said the DPP should correct its loss of direction by first "regaining a grasp" of the nature and needs of society; second, demonstrate the capability to turn reform proposals into concrete policies and set a new policy agenda for reform; and, third, build a new party government relationship through policy advocations in order to realize its ideals in administration.
He said the DPP was not simply an "election machine" and "has to maintain its autonomous and progressive character and use values to lead the policy formation and implementation of the government and not simply act as a propaganda department for the administration."
In brief remarks after the drawing, Chai said that he would push for the "rectification" of Taiwan's official name and the redefinition of the country's territorial boundaries if he is elected chairman.
He said that the DPP's severe setback in the recent local elections was due to the DPP's failure to adequately stress Taiwanese identity and maintain clean administration.
To address these two problems, he said he would push for the change of the country's current official name from the "Republic of China" to "Taiwan" and expand the country's official boundaries to encompass the outlying island groups of Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu.
He added that he would push for a resolution to require DPP public officials and lawmakers to entrust their assets to trust funds and require explanations if the assets of a party member serving in such a capacity suddenly increases.
He also said that Yu and other similarly-minded DPP members had disappointed him by excluding the possibility of rectification and territorial redefinition in the proposed second stage of constitutional re-engineering.
In a separate event held at the Legislative Yuan yesterday, Chai, flanked by pro-rectification activists, advocated the holding of national referendums on the DPP's long-stalled arms procurement package and to abolish elections for urban and rural township mayors.
Chai also called for the enactment of a draft bill to compel the Kuomintang to return its "improperly acquired party assets" to the National Treasury.
For his part, Yu stated that he had made statements excluding the issues of Taiwan's name rectification and territory redefinition from the second-phase constitutional reform process in his capacity as spokesman for the Office of the President and was expressing the views of President Chen Shui-bian and not his personal views.
Yu stressed that since the president is also a party member, Chen should abide by the resolutions of the party.
"Pardon me," said Chai, who added that he was also "speaking as an individual."