Taiwan Election: Prospects murky for stable coalition

Taiwan's main political parties faced the daunting task of reconciling bitter squabbles and forming a coalition government after an historic election reshaped the island's political landscape but left no single party with a clear majority in the legislature.

Taiwan's main political parties faced the daunting task of
reconciling bitter squabbles and forming a coalition government after an
historic election reshaped the island's political landscape but left no single
party with a clear majority in the legislature.

Many Taiwanese hoped Saturday's elections - which broke the Nationalist
Party's five-decade grip on the legislature - would usher in a new era of
party-to-party cooperation.

President Chen Shui-bian called for "an era of cooperation" after his
Democratic Progressive Party declared election victory Saturday night.

But political analysts said on Sunday that while a coalition government was
possible, with the DPP replacing the Nationalists as Taiwan's largest party, it
would be difficult to form a stable ruling alliance given the hostile relations
between the DPP and opposition parties.

The DPP increased its presence to 87 seats out of 225. The Nationalists, who
previously held 110 seats, plunged to 68 seats. Neither party has the minimum of
113 seats to gain outright control of the legislature.

At Saturday's vote, Taiwanese voters conveyed a strong message that they
wanted an end to the protracted political bickering. But there were no clear
signs yet that opposition leaders would respond to Chen's call for forming a
coalition government.

Admitting defeat on Saturday, Nationalist Party chairman Lien Chan indicated
his party would open up for talks with other parties.

"We did not win," Lien said. "But we are still the largest opposition party.
We will step up negotiations with others, so we can together help stabilize
politics."

Rather than reducing tensions with the DPP, it may well be more tempting for
the Nationalists to try to work together with the one-year-old People First
Party, which won 46 legislative seats. If that occurs, the two parties will be
able to dominate the DPP with control of 114 seats.

But there's also bad blood between the Nationalists and People First, which
was formed by a split among the Nationalists. And many analysts expect the
election setback to trigger another split-up in the Nationalist Party.

The DPP will seek to lure away rebellious Nationalists to join a coalition
government, possibly by launching a campaign to discredit the Nationalists, said
Ming Chu-cheng, political science professor of National Taiwan University.

The DPP is also expected to work together with former President Lee Teng-hui's
newly formed Taiwan Solidarity Union. Together the DPP and TSU would have 100
seats in the new legislature.

Bureau Report

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