Mon, Mar 04, 2002 - Page 8 News List

DPP must build a whole new order

By Yao Chia-wen 姚嘉文

The dust has settled after the overturning of the amendments to the Law Governing the Allocation of Government Revenues and Expenditures (財政收支劃分法) that created such a stand-off between between the ruling and opposition parties.

The successful overturning of the amendment has boosted morale in the ruling party after it recently lost the fight for the vice legislative speaker's seat. Given the equal strength of the opposition and ruling parties in the new legislature, we can imagine the unavoidable political mobilization that will follow the Cabinet's submission of new amendments to the revenue allocation law three months from now.

Once the conflict between the Cabinet and the opposition has become the norm -- overshadowing the government's other achievements -- the resulting inability of the government to expand its popular support will become a problem for the DPP's continued rule.

When disputes over public policy develop into hand-to-hand-combat between the DPP and opposition forces, it is the administrative system that will suffer in the end. The unifying of opposition forces -- and even the use of party discipline to mobilize and manipulate these forces -- to diminish the neutrality of the government by way of never-ending disputes has forced the administration to loose its neutrality and appear as the tool of one party.

If the government cannot maintain neutrality in its policy implementation, forces with ulterior motives will limit its popular support base to partisan backers. If the opposition parties cooperate, continued DPP rule will be faced with an unprecedented challenge. If the DPP, which for a long time has symbolized the quest for reform, loses power, it will be the premature death of the force working for the improvement of Taiwan.

In the war between the ruling party and the opposition, we must first ask: is the DPP qualified to stay in power? In the past, when the government was weak and the opposition strong, there was no end to chaos. If we stir up the cinders, however, doesn't the glow of valuable political achievements shine back at us? Diplomacy (in particular our relationship with the US), financial reforms, the economy (entering the WTO) and the campaign against black gold are all examples. If we look at the performance of the government before it was forced into the line of fire, its capabilities still outshine its shortcomings, even though it did waver a little in the beginning.

How, then, should the government move beyond inter-party strife and build a neutral government? The DPP cannot deny that in the past, when the president and the Cabinet became the target of opposition fire, one of the main reasons for the chaos was that a new order had not yet been established for relations between ruling and opposition political parties. With the end of the old relationship and the lack of a new system, the administration was put in the line of fire. With each fight, the president and the Cabinet strayed further from the goal of neutral government, prolonging the DPP's inability to expand the popular support so crucial for a ruling party.

How should the DPP go about building a new order for opposition-government relations? How should it help the government expand its popular support? I am of the opinion that the DPP must have the ability to set and control the political agenda, as well as the ambition to enter the line of fire to protect the government's political achievements. The party's policy capabilities must be strengthened, and this must be arrived at through a smooth coordination mechanism between the party and the government. Once such an operating mechanism has been established, it will, in the long term, also display the need for skilled party executives.

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