Taiwan's DPP Choose the Precarious Position of Chairperson Today

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Sunday May 27, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

To be Chairperson of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is a risky and precarious position, yet ironically this year five people are seeking that position. The position has a tenured length of two years, but in the twenty years of the party having a chairperson seven of the 12 chairpersons have stepped down and not served a full term.

One of the reasons that this position is precarious is the tradition established by Shih Ming-te in 1996 that the chairperson should step down if the party loses an election.

A second reason that would seem to make the position not that eagerly sought after would be the fact that the DPP is made up of many diverse groups with many diverse agendas and ends vis-a-vis Taiwan independence to methods of dealing with and doing business with the People's Republic of China (PRC). In its formative years the party was united more by what it was against than what it was for; that still carries true today. Yet this year we still have five candidates seeking this precarious position.

The DPP was formed in 1986 a year before martial law ended and at a time when it was still illegal to have a second party in Taiwan's one-party state. That changed the next year along with the lifting of martial law but the actual elections that could be measured did not begin until 1992 when the public elected members to the Legislative Yuan and in 1996 when the public were able to vote for the President of the country.

With this background, the first two chairpersons (Chiang Peng-chien and Yao Chia-wen) did serve a full complete term (a one year term at that time) and the third chairperson Huang Hsin-chieh served two consecutive two-year terms from 1988 to 1991. But after that when elections included the Legislative Yuan and Presidency as well as city and county mayors, staying in office became a dicey affair. So why do so many still choose to run and why do we have five running for this position this year? Stay tuned.