Taiwan Communiqué No. 99, December 2001

Crucial Legislative Elections

DPP to become the largest party

President Chen and Lee
President Chen (L) teaming up with Lee Teng-hui: "Green coalition."

On 1 December 2001 crucial elections will be held in Taiwan for the 225 seats of the Legislative Yuan, the national legislature, and for 23 county chief and mayoral offices. This will be the first election for the legislature since March 2000, when the DPP's Chen Shui-bian was elected President.

The previous elections for the legislative body were held in December 1998, when Lee Teng-hui was still President, and -- riding on his "Taiwan First" coattails -- the Kuomintang received a majority. However, after the DPP's victory in the Presidential elections in the Spring of 2000, the KMT backtracked towards a much more China-oriented policy under Mr. Lien Chan, which led to an uneasy cohabitation between the DPP presidency and a KMT-dominated legislature, resulting in much wrangling and a hostile stalemate.

This is likely to change on 1 December 2001: the DPP is expected to become the largest party, and -- in combination with the newly established Taiwan Solidarity Union (strongly supported by former President Lee) -- might be able to set up a coalition. Supplemented with possible "Taiwan First" defectors from the KMT and PFP this could lead to a working majority in the Legislative Yuan. This coalition is generally referred to as the "Green Camp" -- after the primary color in the DPP's flag.

The question is "what kind of majority?" Much will depend on the performance of the three opposition parties, the old Kuomintang (now led by Lee Teng-hui's erstwhile anointed successor Lien Chan), the People's First Party (led by yet another degenerate Lee confidante, James Soong) and the ultra right-wing New Party.

According to recent opinion polls and analyses, the DPP can expect some 38-40% of the vote and win approximately 85 seats. The KMT will be the major loser in this campaign, dropping to around half of its present level both in terms of percentage of the votes and seats, down to a bit over 20% of the vote and between 65 and 70 seats. The Peoples First Party of James Soong is expected to significantly increase its representation, but will not receive more than 30% of the vote or at most some 40-50 seats.

While on the basis of these numbers, the KMT and PFP together could still deny the "Green Camp" a majority, there are reportedly some two dozen KMT and PFP members who presently still stick with these two parties to get elected, but who plan to jump ship right after the elections to join the ruling coalition. These are primarily Taiwanese supporters of President Lee, who stayed in the KMT or PFP in an unsuccesful attempt to try to provide a balance against the pro-unificationist swing in those parties.

According to most predictions, the Taiwan Solidarity Union will receive only some 8 or 10 seats _ in spite of the strong support by former President Lee Teng-hui, while the right-wing extremist New Party will nosedive from its present level of eleven seats down to less than half, or 4 or 5 seats. The remaining half a dozen seats will go to non-affiliated candidates. On the following pages we present our pré-election analysis.

Taiwan Solidarity Union makes its entry

As we reported in Communiqué no. 98, the Taiwan Solidarity Union was established in August 2001, when a number of supporters of former president Lee Teng-hui split off from the Kuomintang, because of their disagreement with the tactics and pro-unificationist policies of Lee's successor, Mr. Lien Chan.

The TSU, led by former interior minister Huang Chu-wen, has nominated 39 candidates, and hopes to get some 35 members elected in the 225-seat Legislative Yuan. It is drawing its support primarily from pro "Taiwan First" supporters of the Kuomintang, but may also whittle away some DPP support, because it has openly expressed itself in favor of Taiwan independence, while the DPP -- in trying to gain more support from the center-right -- has recently watered down its position on independence.

Still, it might be difficult for the TSU to win the 35 seats it is aiming for, since Taiwan's multi-seat district electoral system is in practice biased towards larger parties at the expense of smaller parties. On the other hand, former president Lee Teng-hui's enthusiastic stumping for the TSU is giving it a much higher public exposure than it would otherwise get.

PFP to go up, KMT and New Party to go down

The other three parties are generally referred to as the "Blue Camp" (after the primary color in the KMT's flag). Though they are united in the opposition to the DPP, there are significant underlying differences, both in terms of personal rivalries as well as interests. In some case, this may result in joint support for a particular candidate, while in others case the candidates of these opposition groups may go head-to-head and split the vote.

The Peoples First Party (PFP) is centered around former "Provincial Governor" James Soong, who split away from the KMT a couple of years ago, when then-President Lee Teng-hui threw his support behind termination of the outdated "Taiwan Province" structure, and annointed Lien Chan as his successor instead of James Soong.

Mr. Soong is a slick and cunning politician, who made extensive use of Taiwan provincial funds to increase his own popularity. He had a major falling out with president Lee Teng-hui in December 1999-January 2000, when it became known that Mr. Soong had siphoned off some US$ 36 million in campaign funds, and that his family had transferred some US$ 6 million of this to San Francisco to purchase real estate ( see "James Soong's financial scandal" in Taiwan Communiqué no. 89, http://www.taiwandc.org/twcom/89-no1.htm ).

In spite of the financial scandal, Mr. Soong received some 36.8% of the vote in the March 2000 presidential elections, a close runner-up to the victorious DPP candidate, Chen Shui-bian. In the upcoming elections, Mr. Soong will be the major drawing card for his PFP, but until now he has been able to pull only some 18 members away from the cash-rich KMT and from the non-affiliated group of members. The general expectation is that the PFP might get up to 30% of the vote, but that this will not translate into more than 40-50 seats, since Soong's coattails are not what they used to be, and he has not been able to draw very many heavyweight politicians away from the cash-rich KMT.

The KMT itself at present holds 113 seats -- of the 123 it won in 1998, with some 10 defections to the PFP. With Mr. Lien Chan at the helm, it will be the major loser in this election and drop down to almost half, or somewhere around 65 to 70 seats.

The right-wing extremist New Party, which has profiled itself as the most pro-unificationist of the three "Blue Camp" parties, won only 11 seats in 1998, and is expected to drop to less than half, probably down to only some 4 or 5 seats.

Waiting for the KMT implosion

This editorial appeared in the Taipei Times on 17 November 2001. Reprinted with permission.

KMT pirates
KMT pirates: "Shiver me timbers, someone is trying to get us to surrender."

On Thursday (15 November 2001), KMT Secretary-General Lin Fong-cheng listed three preconditions for a KMT-DPP post-election alliance: President Chen Shui-bian must respect what the KMT claims is a "co-habitation" system of government, he must let the majority party or majority alliance head the Cabinet and he must give the KMT a chance to salvage Taiwan's economy. DPP Secretary-General Wu Nai-jen was quick to rebuke Lin by asking what right would the KMT have to bargain if it makes a poor showing in the December elections?

The hubris of the KMT's suggestion shows the party not only can't spell the word "humility," but is also clueless about the weight it carries -- and the political baggage.

Rumor has it that several KMT lawmakers and high-ranking party officials will defect after the elections. The People First Party estimates the KMT will lose about 20 lawmakers. Talk of the party imploding can be heard everywhere -- except perhaps within KMT Chairman Lien Chan's hearing.

At a time like this, if Lin's statement was intended to secure party harmony for the sake of the elections by easing external pressure for an alliance, it is understandable-- even though it appears likely to fail. However, if the KMT truly thinks it has leverage to carry through on such an alliance, the century-old party is not only old, it's senile. If it continues act in such a ridiculous manner, its disintegration is truly inevitable.

Fifty years ago, the KMT parachuted into Taiwan. The fact that this alien regime managed to maintain its rule for so long is more miraculous than Taiwan's oft-touted economic miracle. Its regime was a prime example of rule by force. Virtually all political observers who visited Taiwan during that time were amazed at the people's obedience to their foreign masters.

The fact that the KMT did not hand over its power until last year shows the forgiving and tolerant nature of the Taiwanese. The KMT also has its former chairman Lee Teng-hui's "localization" path to thank for the fact that it survived 11 years longer than the communist regimes of Eastern Europe.

Nevertheless, many KMT politicians remain bitter about their loss of power and prestige and daydream about a return to glory. Many of those who opposed Lee's efforts to turn the KMT into a "localized" party were quick to jump aboard the Beijing express in the wake of last year's presidential election defeat. The KMT was just as quick to jettison the "localization" path and internal democratization implemented during Lee's 12-year term.

The identity crisis that has plagued the KMT for the last year appears to have been resolved in favor of its Chinese identity, rather than its roots in Taiwan. It is enough to make one wonder why the KMT ever came to Taiwan in the first place if the Beijing regime is so good -- until, of course, one remembers that Beijing doesn't believe in the existence of any political organization except the Chinese Communist Party. Amazing how all the pro-China mouthpieces who fill the media seem to forget that little fact.

In the end, it doesn't matter whether KMT party members turned to China because they opposed Lee or his localization movement. They have lost any claim to political power in Taiwan. The party has betrayed the popular will in Taiwan in pursuit of a mirage of political Never-never Land where it could continue to rule.

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