(This is the first of a set of articles by long time political worker Jou Yi-cheng, who is now in business selling traditional crafts and foods. He is the thinker behind the “Third Society” and “Third Republic” theories of Taiwan’s political evolution. This piece is translated from his Facebook post, originally in Mandarin.)
Many friends have expressed diverse opinions about the competition and collaboration between old and new political parties. Let me offer my own thoughts.
The political stances of the center-right Tsai and the center-left Fan are quite different. But this does not mean I can’t support both of them. In fact, I support them both because of their differences. I support Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to take down the KMT, win the presidency, build a new government. There is no other choice. I too support Fan and her Green Party and Social Democratic Party (SDP) Alliance to win a key minority, stay out of the ruling coalition, and become the opposition to keep the DPP accountable.
This is not a split personality, nor splitting my votes. This is my clearheaded choice.
To the people, political parties are tools. They are for producing policy and administrations to serve the people. Tools become old and broken, like the KMT. But there is no perfect tool, nor sacred tool, nor tools that do everything. Every tool has a function, but they only serve part of the whole.
Some of those above 50 years old worship political parties like a religion; they believe anything the party says, and is loyal to the end. As a former political worker, I have nothing to say to them. Some of those below 50 years old, even those of the Sunflower Generation, also worship political parties like a religion, or treat certain activists as gods. I have to say, this is how our generation differs; we never idolized our activist leaders like such.
If we accept that leaders are not gods, and parties cannot do everything for everyone, then we can surely support different parties or different policy directions at the same time. We must not accept those parties that are harmful to democracy or the polity itself, but we can surely support two parties that differ in their opinions.
At the historical level, this election will be a watershed for reconfiguring Taiwan’s political landscape. From the first national legislative election in 1992, I call the two major party system the “Second Republic,” and we will start the path unto a multi-party system of the “Third Republic.”
This evolution is not something that can be achieved by elections alone. There must be a large-scale constitutional reform process. But this election is the first step for new parties to enter the parliament, like caring for a seedling into a tree. It is a necessary step.
The new parliament must have a new party that, more than the DPP, cares about social reforms, and cares about uniting the various historic stories and ethnic groups in Taiwan. Even just one, or a few seats, will be good. They should learn quickly, grow, and take 10, or 20 or 30 seats in the next election.
This new opposition cannot have too much overlap with the DPP’s support base, so they can be a true opposition party. If they have the same supporters, donors, and commentators as the DPP, they cannot play the role of the opposition.
The Green/Social Democrat Alliance, is the closest so far to this ideal opposition party.
I have been a professional political worker for 20 years, and have been present in many of Taiwan’s major democratic historic events. Of course I know that the current Green/Social Democrat Alliance are complete amateurs in terms of elections, and their political actions are very immature.
I do not idolize them, nor do I speak up for their dumber actions. As I said, parties are just tools, not religions or gods. As a member of the polity, I am picking the Green/Social Democrat Alliance as a tool to push forward Taiwan’s new political landscape.
The DPP is a tool for administration, and the Green/SDP is a tool for opposition. This is my historic perspective.
I don’t care about what they say about each other, or about how their supporters feel about each other. I care about the political future of Taiwan.
(Feature photo of Tsai Ing-wen and Fan Yun cooking together at an event in November, from Tsai’s Facebook page.)