The DPP will be voting for a new chairman on January 15th. As with the KMT Chairman election back in July, the fact that there is a real contest on which all party members can vote is a step forward. (Although the DPP has had open elections for the party head for a while, recent elections have only had one candidate standing).
There are three candidates: Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃) – the ‘heavyweight’ who has done spells in most of the senior DPP positions, Trong Chai (蔡同榮) – a well-respected senior member of the DPP, and Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠) – who would be considered an outsider if it wasn’t for the support of DPP giant ex-chairman Lin Yi-hsiung (林義雄).
Although there was quite some talk about the need for a fresh face to lead the DPP forward, it is quite notable that none of the three candidates are particularly young (Yu and Wong are in their late 50s while Chai is 70); in particular all three are older than Chen Shui-bian and Ma Ying-jeou. The current generation of leaders in the DPP were all involved in the fight for democracy and the setting up of the DPP, and it will probably be a while before a younger member who wasn’t involved in this struggle will be trusted with a senior position.
One issue which it seems will be raised during the campaign will be the role of factions inside the DPP. The various factions have always wielded a large amount of power behind the scenes, and this often results in members being more worried about internal power-struggles than more important stuff (like trying to run the country). One sign of how the factions in the DPP have way too much power was the reaction of the New Tide faction to Wong registering as a candidate, while leaving her faction:
Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康), chief convener of the faction, announced last night that he would resign from the post to take responsibility for Wong’s decision to run for DPP chairperson without consulting the faction beforehand.
Not only does this imply that the New Tide faction expected Wong to ask for permission before running, but that her not doing so is such a shocking embarassment to the faction that it’s a resigning offense for the chief convener.
Trong Tsai has already said that he will aim to get rid of the factions if he wins the election – although whether this is any more acheivable than the next premier saying he will stop the cross-party fighting remains to be seen. Ironically Tsai is the only candidate who has the official backing of one of the factions (the Welfare State faction); all other factions have said that their members should vote as they see fit.
Whoever wins this election will have their work cut out to turn the DPPs fortunes around. For more thoughts on the candidates hop on over to Wandering to Tamshui (here and here), and Michael Turton’s site.