Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Fresh from presidential election defeat, DPP faces overhaul

Fresh from presidential election defeat, DPP faces overhaul

Taiwan's outgoing ruling party must soften its pro-independence rhetoric and hand power to a younger generation if it is to regain trust after two election debacles, lawmakers and analysts say.
For the second time in three months, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was trounced in a popular vote, losing the presidency at the weekend after having already lost parliament in January.
Party chief Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) has kept a low profile since Saturday's landslide win for opposition Kuomintang (KMT) rival Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), but he is under pressure to quit.
Former DPP lawmaker Lee Wen-chung (李文忠), who served eight years in parliament, said he expected Hsieh to shoulder the blame.
"What is uncertain is when he will resign. It's just a matter of time," he told Agence France-Presse.
DPP party officials were tight-lipped on the issue amid reports that Hsieh would tender his resignation during a regular party meeting on Wednesday.
Outgoing President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was self-ruled Taiwan's first DPP leader when he swept to power in 2000 on a platform of reform after half a century of decaying KMT dominance. He narrowly won re-election in 2004.
But while he focused much of his attention on pushing for Taiwan's formal independence, his reformist agenda ground to a halt and he himself will leave office on May 20 under the threat of indictment for corruption.
"I'm sorry that what the DPP did over the past eight years has disappointed them, especially economically," Lee said.
"The people have suffered, and resent the government over the widening gap between rich and poor."
DPP legislator Chuang Shuo-han (莊碩漢) highlighted a string of corruption scandals, foremost one involving Chen and his family that triggered mass rallies in 2005.
"The corruption-tainted first family should be held responsible. The DPP's hard-won image was badly damaged by them," Chuang said.
"If the DPP are to stage a comeback, the DPP's present active leaders must be replaced. If they stay on, you can expect bickering within the party over who is to blame for the defeat," he said.
"The DPP needs to choose a new echelon of leaders."
Lee said he expected the DPP's key strategy of promoting Taiwan's identity and downplaying Chinese roots would remain in place in some form.
However, he admitted the policy - a way to stress the island's nationhood against China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory - was not working after being "abused" in the past few years and in the presidential campaign.
"If you look at the poll figures from Chiayi, Tainan and Kaohsiung cities, then you would know what I'm saying," Lee added, referring to three supposed DPP strongholds which fell to Ma in Saturday's vote.
"Some DPP supporters have felt disillusioned at the DPP raising the issue time and again."
Wang Yeh-li, a political science analyst at Tunghai University, said the DPP may well recover, but that it would take time.
"It's a shame," he added. "It seems the DPP still don't know how they lost two polls in a row. They kept complaining that the government's constructive achievements were not understood by the people.
"They repeatedly said they would listen humbly to the people's voice. But they have not yet done so in a sincere way."
The DPP focused heavily on sovereignty for the presidential election, using China's crackdown in Tibet to warn of a similar scenario here if the KMT was allowed back into power.
Ma, in contrast, was able to exploit the same malaise over the stuttering economy that propelled his party to power in January's legislative vote.
He has vowed to work to improve trade, tourism and transport links and to work for a peace treaty to end decades of hostilities since Taiwan split from the mainland in 1949 after a civil war.
The next polls in 2009, to elect local government heads, will be a test of how far each party has got, analysts say.