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Aug 6, 2007

Class politics

Taiwan never did have a strong labor movement, and leftist sympathizers who might have talked about protecting the working class or peasants would have been shot by the KMT in the past for being secret Communist agents. So it's not surprise that Taiwan does not currently have a traditional labor party either.

But things are shaping up in a surprising way this election. We've already discussed how the Taiwan Farmers Party was formed several weeks ago (ever since its opening meeting, it has disappeared off the radar completely). Now there's this news:

The Chunghwa Telecom Workers' Union (CTWU) may team up with other industrial unions nationwide to form a new political party and field their own candidates in the next legislative elections, union chairman Chang Hsu-chung (張緒中) said yesterday....

Workers groups have been dependent on other political parties to fight for their rights and interests, Chang said, but by organizing their own party, the workers would have a better means to advance their causes.

He said that NT$10 million (US$304,000) in funding had already been secured, enough for the proposed party to field 10 candidates in the Jan. 12 polls.

Chang said members of national federations of industries, as well as the CTWU and the Formosa Plastics Workers' Union met on July 19 for a preparatory meeting for the establishment of the new party, tentatively named the "Workers Solidarity Union." These representatives will meet again on Aug. 21, when the party could be formally established, he said..

He said the new party would campaign for a nationwide referendum on a workers' version of a pension policy, instead of an Executive Yuan's annuity policy; a referendum on banning dispatch workers and guarantees that would stabilize employment opportunities....

With 8.6 million workers in Taiwan, political analysts said the proposed party could turn into a force to be reckoned with if it wins the support of union members around the country.
And then today, these union people said they would not rule out "staying in contact" with the Farmers Party. A united front there would present a pretty solid labor-oriented party. Since their aspirations are reasonable (only running for at large seats), it's quite possible they could secure some measure of the vote.

The same article points out that union chairman Chang Hsu-chung (張緒中) just met with former president and Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) spiritual leader Lee Teng-hui. That indicates Lee might try to secure cooperation too. I find it unlikely the TSU could just absorb a farmers party and a union party into its structure and keep everyone happy, but one could speculate on a certain degree of cooperation or integration.

I'm interested in seeing how this goes. Voter disgust is high right now, and I can imagine a party like this easily bringing in a fair number of at large votes even if they're mostly "protest votes." That is assuming they can present a comprehensive, unified face.

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