Thu, Aug 23, 2001 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: The KMT's shrewd move

KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) has finally made a goodwill gesture toward President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), saying that he is willing to initiate party-to-party negotiations after the Economic Development Advisory Conference. It has apparently dawned on Lien that Taiwan's economy will only sink ever deeper if opposition parties continue to boycott the ruling party and render it powerless, and that only partisan cooperation can revive the economy. The goodwill has come late, but better late than never.

That Lien should have viewed the conference, Chen's brainchild, with suspicion is understandable. In October last year, no sooner had Lien walked out of a summit with Chen at the Presidential Office -- where they had discussed the economy, the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant (核四) and partisan cooperation -- than the Executive Yuan announced that it would halt construction of the plant. It was a deeply humiliating moment for Lien.

The Chen administration's flippant handling of the issue caused Lien to lose faith in the ruling party's credibility and consequently to close the door to partisan negotiations. Lien also rejected Chen's invitation to serve as vice chairman of the conference, though the KMT did not object when the Presidential Office invited Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), the party's vice chairman, to serve in the position instead. But in a sign that the KMT remained ever vigilant of the ruling party, it sent Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫) to the conference as its representative.

Of course, Lien also had his own reasons for expressing his acceptance of the conference shortly before it began.

First, the KMT sees the conference as an important means to revive Taiwan's economy. The key suggestions reached during its panel discussions -- to relax the "no haste, be patient" policy and to establish direct links with China -- are in line with the KMT's official policy and it therefore does not want to be absent from the conference. In fact, it wants to vie for a leading role in the implementation of the consensus reached at the conference, so as to share credit for its results.

The KMT can also use this opportunity to strut its large economic talent pool and show the electorate that it is the party with the real ability to govern. This will certainly be beneficial for the KMT in the year-end elections.

Second, by suggesting political negotiations, Lien has stolen the initiative before the PFP's James Soong (宋楚瑜) can suggest a summit of party leaders. It was a move that highlighted the KMT's political prowess and its efforts to sideline both Chen and Soong at the same time.

Finally, the KMT-led opposition alliance wants to maintain a legislative majority after the year-end elections and gain enough power to form a Cabinet. If the economy continues to deteriorate, such an alliance would stand to inherit a pile of economic ruin which would very much be to the detriment of a KMT-led Cabinet. It won't be until the first quarter of next year before the implementation of the conference's conclusions begin to bear fruit. At that time, the opposition alliance can grandly claim all the credit for the economy's recovery.

Regardless of the KMT's motivations, both the Presidential Office and the ruling party should welcome its entry onto the scene because any conclusion reached at the conference will remain hollow without endorsement from the opposition parties, particularly the KMT.

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