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Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Contrasting Political Parties

While the DPP grooms itself for the future, the KMT is riven by internal strife.

The China Post reported the other day that Yeh Chu-lan, the wife of dissident and activist Chen Nan-jung, is under consideration by DPP Presidential candidate Frank Hsieh for the Premiership:

After I had served as Kaohsiung mayor, Yeh Chu-lan also served as Kaohsiung mayor. As I have been premier, Yeh Chu-lan may also become premier," Hsieh told supporters at a rally in Hsinchu.

Hsieh was flanked by both his running mate Su Tseng-chang and Yeh at the rally of supporters from the Hakka community, to which the campaign manager belongs.

"If I am elected president, one day a Hakka woman may also become president," Hsieh told the rally.

Observers said Hsieh's remarks were not just meant to be a gesture to attract the backing of the Hakka community.

The Central News Agency cited his close aides as commenting that it was actually an important announcement of Hsieh's that Yeh would be a potential candidate for the premier post if he was elected president.

Yeh reportedly had been Hsieh's number-one choice for running mate before the DPP standard bearer picked Su instead.

Yeh had lobbied hard for the Vice-Presidency, and the Premiership is an obvious choice for this increasingly important DPP politician, one of the many talents the DPP is bringing along for the future. Yeh is a Hakka and may help attract Hakka votes to the campaign. The Hakka ethnic group, a large minority in Taiwan -- something like 25% of the pre-1949 population was Hakka -- has traditionally been an important part of the KMT's ethnic coalition and a pillar of KMT support. The rally, as the CNA reported, was held in Hsinpu, an important Hakka community. The first of the new Hsieh-Su ticket, its kickoff in a key Hakka town was no accident:

Ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh wooed Hakka voters Saturday with promises to promote Hakka language and culture as well as accelerate economic development in Hakka communities if he wins the presidency.

Hsieh made the pledges while attending a rally in front of the Yiming Temple in Hsinpu, a Hakka township in the northern county of Hsinchu, in the company of his running mate Su Tseng-chang and Presidential Office Secretary-General Yeh Chu-lan, who concurrently serves as the Hsieh campaign's top strategist.

It marked the first time that the three DPP bigwigs have attended a campaign rally together since the formation of the Hsieh-Su ticket for the 2008 presidential election earlier this month.


As Yeh is favored by many of her Hakka fellows to join Hsieh on the 2008 ticket, Hsieh deliberately chose the Hsinpu Hakka community as the place for his first campaign rally together with Su and Yeh to stage a tableau of unity and party coherence.


Since the DPP won the presidency in 2000, Hsieh said a Hakka television station has been established and Hakka language has been actively promoted. Hsieh said he himself took a Hakka proficiency test during his premiership from 2005 to early 2006.

He promised to boost ethnic harmony and glorify Hakka culture if elected the next president.

Su, who succeeded Hsieh to serve as premier, addressed the rally in fluent Hakka as he once served as magistrate of the southern county of Pingtung which has a large Hakka population.

For her part, Yeh urged her Hakka fellows and friends to support the Hsieh-Su ticket to help the homegrown DPP retain its grip on power next year.

Many Hakka heavyweights residing in Hsinchu County, including former Hsinchu Magistrate Lin Kuang-hua, also attended the rally to lend their support.

Making inroads in the Hakka communities in the north will be an important step for the DPP in winning the Presidential campaign. Note that Vice Presidential candidate Su speaks Hakka, just as his counterpart Vincent Siew for the KMT does -- both parties have signaled that the struggle for the Hakka vote will be a crucial one.

By constrast, over in the KMT the grumbling from the Taiwanese legislators serving under the Ma regime continues. On August 26th a group of southern legislators, a code phrase for largely ethnic Taiwanese legislators in the KMT, blasted the party for its treatment of Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, a Taiwanese, and the unofficial leader of the Taiwanese legislators. Party officials responded the next day by saying that the whole thing was a misunderstanding:

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday called for party unity amid harsh criticism from supporters of Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) of KMT Secretary-General Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) and Deputy Secretary-General Liao Feng-de (廖風德).

In response to a petition signed by several local-level politicians and grassroots groups in the south demanding that the party replace Wu Den-yih, who they said had damaged Wang's reputation, KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) yesterday stood by the two top party officials and said the accusations against them were just a "misunderstanding."

"Wu [Den-yih] and Liao are important comrades who I rely on the most in each battle. No one knows better than me that the KMT will have to unite to win the elections," he said yesterday in Taichung City.

The petition, which was signed by Kaohsiung County Council Speaker Hsu Fu-sen (許福森), vice speaker Lu Shu-mei (陸淑美) and a number of councilors in Kaohsiung, Taichung and Hsinchu, accused Wu Den-yih and Liao of spreading rumors to tarnish Wang's name.

They threatened not to campaign for the party's candidates in next year's elections if the party did not fire both of them.

Wu Poh-hsiung said that the party supported Wang and called on the petitioners to end this "misunderstanding" and refrain from making more accusations.

KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) echoed the call for party unity.

"We are only five months away from the legislative elections and seven months away from the presidential election. We should be thinking about the overall situation and not get trapped by our opponents," he said in Taipei.

Wu Den-yih is the former mayor of Kaohsiung, while Wu Poh-hsiung, a Hakka, is the Party's Chairman and widely seen as a Ma supporter. Apparently there is a whispering campaign going on to the effect that Wang will not get a seat in the new legislature. This cutthroat rivalry may well lead to problems for KMT candidates in the upcoming elections. One need only compare the Ma-Wang rivalry with the Hsieh-Su rivalry -- the DPP did everything it could to put the two rivals on the ticket, patch up differences, find a plum spot for disappointed veep possibility Yeh Chu-lan, and put together a show of unity in an important ethnic community. Those are the moves of a winning political party. The KMT, by contrast, failed to put together the obvious Ma-Wang ticket, took a giant step backward with the selection of Siew, does not appear to have a broad list of future talent moving up the ranks, and can't seem to manage a display of unity. Instead, many of its local legislators are threatening to bolt the party. Still, it remains to be seen whether these rumbles on the horizon are an approaching forest fire, or just summer thunder....

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