Fri, May 11, 2001 - Page 12 News List

Too early to consider a coalition Cabinet

By Yen Chin-fu 顏錦福

During the DPP's Ninth National Congress meeting, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) called for "alliances with opposition forces holding the same ideals [as the DPP] and supporting reforms," and "a legislative majority at the year-end election, so that A-bian can do a good job for the next two-and-a-half years." As a result, the impression has generally formed that the DPP will form a joint Cabinet with other parties.

At the present time, the DPP has executive power, but it is severely constrained by its lack of legislative power. The DPP has faced frequent and deliberate opposition boycotts. Many policy proposals have therefore become the focus of battles of words between the parties. Bills have often either been approved in a peremptory manner or viciously voted down out of rage. The national budgets were reduced in an irrational manner. All these, together, have become obstacles to policy implemen


Chen and DPP members therefore hope that the DPP will have an opportunity to lead the legislature, thereby facilitating the implementation of its policies. The DPP is not, however, in a position to win a legislative majority. That is why the president proposes cross-party alliances. Others have gone as far as to call for a joint Cabinet.

While a joint Cabinet is certainly one option to be considered, it is not the only option. In fact as a DPP member or supporter, one should not even broach the subject at this stage. I believe the president simply hopes that the DPP will strengthen cooperation with non-DPP groups. These could include any party. It doesn't matter who takes charge; cooperation is to be encouraged if it helps policy implementation, brings back rationality, and involves individuals holding the same ideals. As for whether the cooperation is to take the form of a joint Cabinet or to remain simply at the inter-party level, that depends. It is not something to be decided in advance.

Inside the DPP, a joint Cabinet remains merely a topic of discussion. Some people outside the party, however, have begun talking about the pre-conditions for a joint Cabinet, and speculating that the DPP's motive is to divide the opposition, when in fact placing too much emphasis on a joint Cabinet will not help the DPP.

One problem with just talk is that voters may think it indicates a lack of confidence on the part of the DPP in its ability to perform well in the elections. Secondly, it would cause DPP members to lose faith in the party. In the end, the DPP would become unable to distinguish itself from other political parties. One-sided wishful thinking by the DPP about a joint Cabinet, therefore, would create a crisis. We should not underestimate the potential damage.

A joint Cabinet can become a reality only when all the parties involved agree on it. The parties have talked about a reconciliation for a long time, yet the standoff remains. No one trusts one another. No one is willing to take a back seat. It is too early, therefore, to even begin talking about a joint Cabinet. Attempts to put together a joint Cabinet right now will only create unnecessary political instability and generate more suspicion among the parties. It is okay to treat the issue as a topic of leisurely discussion, and an option in the future reorganization of the Cabinet.

As for different issue-specific alliances among the parties, we should learn to perceive them as the norm. Last year's presidential election took place in a backdrop with such alliances. If we become too serious about a joint Cabinet, the greater the expectation, the greater the disappointment. It will facilitate neither the government's ability to implement policy nor any reconciliation between the parties.

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