Wed, Nov 01, 2000 - Page 8 News List

The DPP's strange sense of timing

By Wang Kao-cheng 王高成

After Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) suddenly announced that construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant (核四) would not proceed, all the opposition parties condemned the decision. The KMT has also withdrawn its approval for its vice chairman, Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), to represent President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) at the upcoming APEC summit. The PFP is also planning a vote of no confidence in the Cabinet. A political crisis could erupt at any time.

Since the DPP knew that its decision would intensify the fight between the ruling and the opposition parties, why did the Executive Yuan still choose to make the announcement right after a high-profile meeting between Chen and KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰)? I believe there are two reasons for the bizarre timing.

First, Chen is gradually losing control over his party. Chen had earlier revealed that he might chair the National Unification Council (國統會) and then changed his mind the very next day due to party pressure. Faced with a fight between the anti-nuclear DPP and pro-nuclear former premier Tang Fei (唐飛), Chen chose once again to stand by his party and quickly approved Tang's resignation the night before Tang was going to announce the Executive Yuan's support for the plant.

The sudden cancellation announcement has made Chen's recent meetings with leaders of opposition parties meaningless, even deceptive. It clearly proved that Chen, under pressure from the DPP, has given up his "new middle way" (新中間路線) and has returned to the DPP's "traditional way" (傳統路線).

Second, the DPP seems to believe that the cancellation might be a turning point in changing its minority status in the Legislative Yuan. Without the support of the opposition parties, the government can hardly promote any of its policies. Such powerlessness is a millstone the DPP is trying hard to shed. If the disposition of the legislature cannot be changed, Chen will remain a lame duck president until next year's legislative election.

Cancellation of the plant, therefore, has sparked off the DPP's war against the unbalanced power relations between the Executive and Legislative Yuans. If Chen's government can solve the crisis, it might set a precedent for the implementation of its policies in the future. If not, it could also benefit from a snap legislative election after a vote of no confidence in the government, since the KMT is likely to lose some of its seats.

Thus, the DPP used the strategy of "exposing oneself to mortal danger in order to be reborn" (置之死地而後生) by announcing the cancellation right after the Chen-Lien meeting -- in order to humiliate and infuriate the KMT and force the opposition to hold a confidence vote.

How should the opposition react? I believe that both reducing the social cost of political turmoil and forcing the government to make necessary concessions needs to be stressed.

First, the KMT's original suggestion to pass a new law to compel the government to proceed with the plant while reducing Taiwan's total nuclear power capacity gradually is perhaps the best solution to solve the chaos legally. Next, the opposition parties could refuse to review the budget in order to force the government to make concessions. Third, they could impeach Chen in order to pressure government leaders. Finally, they could proceed with a confidence vote against the Cabinet and hasten the legislative election.

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