IN CONSIDERATION of that what has come to be known as the 在野大聯盟 (“Opposition Alliance”) has backed independent candidate Ko Wen-Je in this year’s Taipei mayoral election, the overall the behavior of individuals and camps in this year’s election is surprising. Outside of the important aspect that KMT candidate Sean Lien has “self-destructed” several times in attempting to smear Ko, in attempting to raise the 2011 Yu Chang scandal, the MG149 bank account at National Taiwan University Hospital, and accusations of organ trafficking, Ko’s personal charm and style in running his campaign has led to difficulties for the KMT in advancing Lien.
However, if we look into the important factors for Ko’s success, we can attribute this to the platforms of “beyond blue and green” and “civic participation,” as the core values of people’s favoring Ko. According to experience, Taipei’s electorate is more blue than green, as the DPP’s votes consist of 34% to 46% of voters. As a result, unless there is a split in the blue camp, it is hard to grab the throne of Taipei mayor from the KMT. It is clear that if Ko hopes to be victorious he had to break from tradition in regards to the framework of a typical “blue versus green showdown.” It was certain from the time that Ko decided to run for office that this would require a great amount of effort.
Ko has faced difficulties in entering without a party, but using the method of entering primaries for representation of the pan-Green camp, attempting to attract the attention of young people, including people without party affiliation or even from the blue camp, and utilizing his large-scale “Opposition Alliance”. But this has allowed for the concept of open participation to be evident. more significantly, his expression of that he would not enter a political party after becoming Taipei City mayor and require senior city officials to exit participation in the activities of electoral parties, even the heads of departments, the notion that you need to be outside of a party to serve. This determination to maintain political distance has succeeded in inducing Taiwanese society to gradually express it’s “civic capacity” outside of the two parties.
This type of sentiment, of breaking away from blue or green parties alike, can be traced earliest to the Wild Lily Movement in 1990, and the most impressive expression of this would be Citizen 1985’s success in mobilizing 20,000 to 30,000 people to protest the death of Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) in 2013, followed by the Sunflower Movement afterwards in 2014. It is not necessary to discuss here the background behind these events or that the demands were very different, but what is shared is that political parties were excluded from this kind of activities, and that politicians were made to play a low key role, with their exposure in media marginalized. For movement participants and supporters, what was new was that political participation had returned to their own hands and wasn’t taken hostage by being caught between the two major political parties.
After excluding the two political parties (of course, more accurately we can say,the DPP was excluded because the KMT would never stand out with social movements, the KMT was precisely what social movements were resisting) social movements were able to gain unprecedented public support, but it has to be mentioned that the notion of “blue-green battle” has roots in the political imagination. Following the end of authoritarian dictatorship in Taiwan, and becoming a country with a longer history, part of the the result was that the outcome of confrontation with the KMT led originally disparate and diverse political ideas came to be thought of as belonging to one or the other political party.
More severely, by way of the media, it became an established idea that the conflict between “blue and green” was the source of Taiwan’s problems establishing the economy, to budget the country, education, local finance, effective law, official appointment, etc. As soon as there were problems, it would be explained in terms of the “blue versus green struggle”. Furthermore, it was the first time political parties rotated power with Chen Shui-Bian as the only winning candidate from a party a outside of the KMT, followed by the turnover back to Ma Ying-Jeou. Both Chen and Ma were unpopular, with President Chen’s popular support falling under 17% and Ma Ying-Jeou’s falling under 9%, leading to dissatisfaction with both major parties. As such it is not surprising that many people would wish to move beyond “blue” or “green.”
But in reality, if we only look at “blue versus green” as the contestation between the KMT and DPP, or just the spittle exchanged between two political parties, or boycotts inside the Legislative Yuan, the understanding of Taiwanese government achieved is too shallow. Behind blue and green are different political values and awareness: that is to say, ultimately the question of national unification or independence, within cultural identification as Chinese or independent Taiwanese; in in regards to the constitution, preserving the current patchwork constitution or calling for a new one; attitudes towards the history of authoritarian rule, whether to forget it or to advocate transitional justice; and the question of whether to confront China with open doors and windows or to preserve distance.
Today we can say it isn’t the KMT that represents blue, it’s not the DPP that represents green, beyond blue and green, whether beyond this is to replace blue and green with black or white, donkey or elephant, broccoli or bean sprouts doesn’t matter. What I mean to suggest is that there are always political values in opposition and it is important for all people to discuss and decide.
Of course, we all wish that Taiwan’s government is not controlled by the two parties, and that the party lines won’t take over the real question of justice. However, we do not hope that so-called beyond blue and green is just a way of hiding these serious choices with historical values behind them. We might raise an example in regards to the DPP: in the 2004 presidential election, the DPP put forth a campaign ad featuring the flag and national anthem, with flags in the opening of the ad and a female voice singing the national anthem in the background. Towards advocates of Taiwanese independence, was this mere irony or did this represent a significant transition in political strategy?
Of course, we can understand, in order to discuss the issue of Taiwanese independence, there is a need to attract votes, and so the campaign ad was made with the consideration of campaign strategy. But the DPP’s attempt to appeal to the political center led to the discussion of the removal of the Taiwan independence platform from the DPP’s party constitution, further the demonization of the political platform of Taiwanese independence, and the elimination of public discussion of Taiwanese independence for 10 years! It is only after this year’s Sunflower Movement that the issue of independence acquired new importance.
Moving beyond blue and green can be a positive political transformation: living on the same piece of land with a group of people should be the peaceful and rational discussion of political ideas on the basis of common vision. On the other hand, the claim to move beyond blue and green can be a confused battle of hypocrisy, sidelining important political questions, in the belief that this is reconciliation between blue and green in a communal manner. Electoral candidate Ko Wen-Je hews to the former and not the latter, as according to Yao Li-Ming’s description, the two can reasonably discuss independence and unification, Ah-Bian, and issues of blue-green. But will the voters of the general public be so conscious? To Ko Wen-Je, his self-proclaimed stance of beyond blue and green is of aid in electoral elections, but what will this mean for the choice of political values for the country?