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Mar 22, 2008

What's next for the DPP

I want to outline five key structural reforms and strategies the DPP should undertake, given today's results. This is not a definitive list: "new blood" is probably the first requirement for any of these to happen.

Implement a 19 counties strategy. One of the DPP's structural weaknesses is that it is functionally a national party with almost no offices at the local level. The party currently participates in elections at the city council level and up, and has effectively written off historically blue areas and lower offices. Modeling Howard Dean's 50 states strategy, the DPP must recruit candiates at all levels of power and build a nation-wide party from the base up and to give it a better way to find and develop talent. This strategy must work hand-in-hand with the next:
Define core issues and increase autonomy. To contest seats at every level between the presidency and the local district chief (鄰長), the DPP must advocate a core platform to which all officials adhere (perhaps Taiwanese sovereignty, anti-corruption reforms, 18-year-old voting age, banking reforms, women's rights, aboriginal autonomy...) while giving wider reign for candidates to mold a platform suited to their office and district. While a national candidate in Tainan County might run well on anti-China rhetoric, a local one in Jinmen could be "China-friendly" while holding onto the core platform. The party must encourage diversity of opinion to widen its base and accomplish its most cherished goals. In line with this objective, the DPP should end the legislative caucus' right to dictate legislators' votes on all but the core platform issues.
Form a shadow cabinet. Parliamentary systems in the Westminster tradition often have a shadow cabinet of senior opposition legislators who critique the government's policies, ministry by ministry, and present their own comprehensive platform. In Taiwan, because of the separation of powers, a shadow cabinet should be composed of experts the DPP could posit as potential ministers. This is an important strategy for a party heavily criticized for the lack of professionalism from its cabinet. Shadow council and commission heads would help too. The DPP should largely appoint non-partisan experts and give wide autonomy for them to suggest policy related to their expertise.

Highlight legislative work. The DPP should focus on their legislative bills, especially since most will be slapped down. The legislators are now the DPP's only national bullhorn (unless they form the shadow cabinet as I suggest), so they must use it wisely. Pushing for greater legislative transparency and more conflict of interest legislation would be a very good start. Likewise:

Improve the legislators' professional image. Avoiding tongue lashing the KMT ministers will not be easy since DPP legislators will mostly get on TV for challenging the new government, but more civility would go a long way toward improving the party's image. Avoiding yelling and name-calling should be adequate, though sarcasm might be the best new tool when critcizing the KMT. The DPP should also find ways to support and even promote some KMT-initiated legislation and gain KMT support for some of its own legislation (admittedly, the latter is a more difficult task). The legislators will appear bi-partisan and less polarizing.

1 comment:

David said...

I think your suggestions are excellent. I think the idea of a shadow cabinet is a great one. Now there is a very clear division of the opposition and ruling parties in Taiwan. The DPP can be an excellent opposition party. Having a strong opposition party can also contribute to strengthening Taiwan's democracy.

There is one more point I would like to add. It is continue to seek to transitional justice.