Breakaway party launches in Taiwan

By Damian Grammaticas, BBC News, Sunday 12 August 2001, 15:57 GMT 16:57

A new political party in Taiwan has held its formal inauguration, pledging to bring significant change to the island.

The Taiwan Solidarity Union is the first party on the island to have the word Taiwan in its name. It unveiled its candidates for parliamentary elections due at the end of the year.

Taiwan’s political parties are eyeing their new rival nervously.

With just four months before parliamentary elections, the Taiwan Solidarity Union is threatening to shift the balance of power on the island.

The party is unashamed about its support for all things Taiwanese, and its view that the island is a state in its own right, distinct from China.

The reason this upstart may be a threat is it has the blessing of Taiwan’s former President, Lee Teng-hui.

Known as Mr Democracy for bringing multi-party politics to the island, he is one of the most influential figures in Taiwan.

Mr Lee was Taiwan’s president until last year, when his Kuomintang Party lost the office to its long-time enemy, the DPP.

He is still a member of the Kuomintang, but mounted the stage at the TSU’s inauguration and punched his fist in the air triumphantly.

It was an act of political audacity, some would say political treachery.

The TSU’s candidates for the elections include 20 former Kuomintang members who want to draw votes away from Mr Lee’s old party and help the DPP win a parliamentary majority.

President’s message

Lee Teng-hui’s supporters have formed this new party because they believe his successor as chairman of the Kuomintang, Lien Chan, has moved away from the former president’s Taiwanese policies and towards a position seen as favouring eventual reunification with China.

In his speech, Mr Lee criticised Taiwan’s opposition parties, including his own Kuomintang, for bringing political instability to the island and undermining its economy.

He has called on people to support the DPP and new President Chen Shui-bian.

At the TSU’s inauguration a letter was read from President Chen.

He said he looked forward to co-operating with the new party.

The TSU’s support could help him win a majority of seats in parliament.

But the two new allies could also do each other harm by competing for the same votes.