The three candidates seeking the ruling Democratic Progressive Party chairmanship yesterday debated the ties between the party and the government with former presidential secretary-general Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃) vowing to promote closer interactions if he wins Sunday.
Yu's idea drew sharp criticism from the other two contestants who faulted blurred ties between the government and the DPP for the party's bruising defeat in the December 3 elections for local governors.
The trio shed more light on how they plan to steer the party during a televised debate held in Kaohsiung City.
Both DPP Legislator Trong Chai (蔡同榮) and former Changhua County magistrate Weng Ching-chu promised to separate the party from the government, whose lackluster performance, they noted, dragged down DPP candidates for county and city chiefs last month.
Yu, who has the backing of the Justice Alliance and New Tide factions, said it is unrealistic to separate the party from the government because under the policy, DPP government officials would all have to be suspended from the party.
"Rather, I consider it better advised to work out a model under which the party and the government can join hands in drawing up public policies and serving the people," Yu said. "A party excluded from important decision-making process is like being exiled."
The most urgent task facing the DPP, Yu added, is for the party to overcome its low morale following the election debacle. Yu, also a former premier, said he is the best candidate to meet the challenge.
Yu declined to say unambiguously whether he would abstain from the 2008 presidential race as some DPP heavyweights have urged so that the new chairman can concentrate on playing the role of campaigner.
"I've addressed the issue scores of times," he said in reply to Chai's challenge. "You need only to tune in to FTV to know my stance, given your (close) ties with the TV station."
Chai, a longtime activist of Taiwan independence, said he is to give top priority to improving ties between Washington and Taipei but failed to elaborate on how he intends to pursue the goal, if elected.
Rather, Chai targeted his fire at Yu, saying that the former top presidential aide cannot shake off the blame for the rising public sentiment against the government since he served in different ranking government posts over the last five years. Chai has the support of the party's Welfare State Alliance faction and hard-line independence elements.
Weng, on the other hand, said she believed the DPP should focus its energy on reviving the party's founding values - to build Taiwan into an independent democratic country that assigns a great importance to social justice and fairness. Weng, contented that the party has drifted away from its founding goals to placate different groups after the transfer of power. Only by separating the party from the government, she insisted, can DPP candidates for elected offices be freed from liabilities linked to the administration's poor performance in the future.
Also, Weng, who has sought to woo members disappointed at President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), said the party will remain dominated by "strongman politics" if it fails to keep the government at a distance.