by Jonathan Leung

Photo Credit: NPP/Facebook

The following article is part of a special joint issue between New Bloom and Taiwan Insight on the 2024 elections. 

Quandaries: Position of the New Power Party

THE 2024 LEGISLATIVE election represents a pivotal struggle for the NPP’s survival. They must not only safeguard the crucial 5% threshold of party votes but also aim for a breakthrough in geographical constituencies amidst competition from other parties. To sustain themselves, they need to ensure at least three legislators remain in their party caucus. The outcome of this election will be decisive for their future.

Throughout the years, there has been continuous withdrawal of significant party members. Most of them have joined the DPP or become its affiliates. Some core members quit the party for controversial reasons, like Kawlo Iyun Pacidal and Hsu Yung-ming. Most of the NPP’s notable social influencers, scholars, and intellectuals also withdrew from the party in the past few years. In a nutshell, the NPP is facing a serious problem of decomposition. Yet, the most updated and unexpected news is former leader Huang Kuo-chang, their most iconic and representable figure, defected to the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) in November right before the legislative nomination. This article will examine the crossroads of the NPP without Huang to project the possible path of the party.

The crisis NPP has been facing is mainly due to the struggle for political position and dissatisfaction towards the party leadership. The party actually has very clear ideological positions: pro-Taiwan independence, progressivism and social liberalism. The NPP has always been a centre-left pro-Taiwan independent party; this is an unarguable fact. Their struggle has mainly been about their relationship with the DPP and also a factions’ discontent towards the Huang. The NPP-DPP relationship has always been the question for the NPP to position themselves. They entered parliament by allying with the DPP. With the DPP leaving some blue-safe-seat geographical constituencies vacant in 2016, the NPP nominated candidates to challenge the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) with the green endorsement. Three of them stood out and won the election, including NPP leader Huang Kuo-chang, famous singer Freddy Lim and military abuse victim’s sister Hung Tsu-yung. Therefore, the NPP gave their confidence to the DPP at the beginning of Tsai Ing-wen’s administration. This gave their name the “Small Green”, which became more obvious when they criticised the KMT.

Haters of the NPP come from different political camps, ironically criticising them on a completely different basis. In most of the elections, the NPP candidates would focus on challenging the KMT candidates, even though the DPP did not endorse their elections. They would question the KMT candidates’ cross-strait policies and national identity, but at the same time, they would also challenge the DPP’s various policies or personnel problems. They were also vague in not declaring official support for the DPP presidential or mayoral candidates except in 2016. The delay in announcing the support of Tsai in 2020 and occasionally cooperating with the KMT in parliamentary institutions made them being demonised by the green flank. These green-unfriendly behaviours resulted in the NPP being tarred with being “unloyal to Taiwan”, “Ally of the Blues and Whites”, and “Ally of the Chinese Communists” since they were “challenging the DPP government”. Yet, never did the NPP questioned the DPP’s cross-strait policies and national identity. Being pro-Taiwan independence does not necessarily mean that they will need to support the DPP candidates and motions. Otherwise, the party’s existence will be redundant, and they can merge into the DPP.

The dilemma of the NPP is this: it is extremely challenging to adopt a stance that pleases most people, as they constantly face dilemmas with no easy solutions. However, this is what sets them apart. As a party that champions Taiwan’s independence and social democracy, they represent a distinct third option, clearly separate from the traditional blue and green political factions. Their parliamentary performance is also outstanding, all three of their incumbent legislators ranked top ten in the most recent annual evaluation of legislators by the Journalistic Club. Chen Jiau-hua ranked first in the overall performance and Wang Wan-yu ranked second in the journalistic evaluation section, while Chiu Hsien-chih was also in the top ten. And the NPP’s human rights manifesto is also ranked first among the other counterparts according to the most recent report of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights. These are the NPP’s uniqueness and merits which should be reckoned.

Defection of Huang Kuo-chang: Situation Worsened or Beacon of Hope?

HUANG KUO-CHANG LEFT the party which he has not just only led but also incited most of the struggles. He switched his membership to the TPP and was ranked first in their party list. His cordial relationship with Ko was not news when Ko openly asked Huang to be his Justice Minister. Yet, he still campaigned for different NPP councillor candidates in 2022 as their spiritual leader.

Most of those who left the NPP explained that Huang and his faction’s leadership was the main reason to quit. They were dissatisfied with his vague and wavering support towards Tsai, resulting in the withdrawal of Lim and Hung, who both got DPP’s support in running for re-election. Huang underscored the importance of checking the DPP in the parliament more forcefully. His leadership, Hsu Yung-ming’s SOGO Incident and ghost membership accusations resulted in the continuous withdrawal of significant figures. Various controversies went to Huang’s leadership problem; he was accused of being responsible for the NPP’s decomposition. While most of the withdrawers joined the Greens, he joined the Whites and abandoned the Yellows.

Huang is a prominent and charismatic figure with strong public backing. His involvement in the 2020 party list significantly contributed to the NPP securing over a million votes and three legislative seats. His internet broadcasts and participation in legislative debates are highly popular. His move to the TPP is likely to draw away a portion of his followers, who were key supporters of the NPP. However, Huang’s departure hasn’t negatively impacted the NPP’s poll ratings. Recent surveys show the NPP maintaining around a 4% support rate. Following Huang’s departure, pan-Green voters, who may have previously lost faith due to his actions, might return their support to the NPP, feeling that the party deserves another opportunity.

Right before the election, this situation presents a valuable chance for the NPP to reinvent itself in the post-Huang era, offering a more defined political vision to the voters. This is even more explicit when their leader Wang Wan-yu gave a captivating speech in the protest, criticising all three parties to show the NPP’s uniqueness and distinguish their differences from the others. Indeed, it is undeniable that the DPP has had a role behind in differentiating and incorporating them, but this will be the NPP’s question to consider how to survive. If they could prove that they are a solid pro-Taiwan independent party devoted to social justice and determined to be reborn, this would be their beacon of hope to gather supporters again.

Safeguard and Breakthrough: 2024 Legislative Campaign

THE 2024 LEGISLATIVE ELECTION is the most crucial yet very untraditional battle for the NPP. With the recent years’ decline, the NPP would likely be extinct from the parliament since the 5% party vote seems unreachable. Moreover, they did not have any iconic political stars in this year’s nomination. Legislator Chiu Hsien-chih, the former leader, is running in Hsinchu City, and the current leader Wang Wan-yu is running in Hsinchu County. They are the only two candidates in geographical constituencies, who are also the two current NPP legislators since Chen Jiau-hua is not seeking re-election. The two are not only campaigning for the party votes but also seeking breakthroughs in geographical constituencies. They have picked the most possible places where they might stand a chance. Chiu has been serving in Hsinchu City for nearly a decade, which is also where the NPP’s majority support comes from. They currently have three city councillors here, and their nominee Kao Yu-ting even got nearly 30% of votes in the previous election, a very outstanding performance for a third-way party. Chiu has solid supporters here and could catch the eyes of the juvenile voters in Hsinchu City. With four major candidates from each camp, it does not seem impossible for him to win the fight if he could secure the NPP’s supporters. Formerly expressing interest in running the election in Taipei’s Daan constituency, Wang Wan-yu finally chose to run in Hsinchu County. While the DPP has nominated a university professor, Wang’s support rate is a lot ahead of the DPP candidate. This strategy could not only aid in consolidating their supporters for the party vote but also shows their ambition to make significant inroads into geographic constituencies.

On the contrary, the nominees in the NPP party list are not as famous as the above two legislators. Not only Huang some of the possible famous people did not appear in the list nomination at last in October. For example, Wang Wei-jun, founder of the Taiwan Children’s Rights, was once the party’s freshly-joined fighter for social justice who withdrew right before the nomination. The other one is Chung Wei-ding, or known as AmoGood, the famous movie-review YouTuber who joined the party for a short while. These socially notable figures are not on the party list, making the NPP’s campaign not as eye-catching as the previous ones. Yet, they have chosen representatives from various sectors. For instance, Lin Yi-ying served as the former Deputy Mayor of Taichung. Wang Bao-hsuan is recognised as a social activist. Sung Kuo-ting has a background as a former Miaoli County councillor and was a magistrate candidate in 2022, where he delivered an impressive performance. Meanwhile, Chiang Sheng is known for advocating euthanasia. In the absence of widely recognised figures, the NPP has chosen to highlight representatives from diverse sectors, underscoring their commitment to representing and upholding their core values.

To avoid the consequence of being eliminated like the Taiwan Solidarity Union and to differentiate itself from the Taiwan Statebuilding Party, the NPP chooses to keep its distance from the DPP. They identify as an opposition party, possibly sharing a similar cross-strait perspective with the DPP but with distinctly different internal ideologies. They are striving to maintain their caucus in parliament in the upcoming election as a means of survival. Dealing with the departure of many key figures and the perceived betrayal of its spiritual leader, 2024 presents the NPP with its most significant challenge yet. However, it also offers a chance to reassemble and undergo a rebirth.

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