Sat, Mar 16, 2002 - Page 8 News List

DPP headed in the wrong direction

By Wang Chien-chuang 王健壯

The question of whether Presi-dent Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) should serve concurrently as president and chairman of the DPP is not new. What is interesting, however, its that the idea has been raised again now that Chen has been in office for almost two years. This indicates that something has gone wrong between Chen and the party or between the party and the government, something that is attributable to Chen not being the party leader.

So what has happened? There are a number of possibilities.

The first possibility is that the party chairman is restraining the president, or the party leadership doesn't listen to Chen's orders. This explanation doesn't hold up, however, since DPP Chairman Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) has abided by almost everything Chen has said over the past two years.

The second possibility is that factional struggles within the party leadership have led to interference with government policy and turned the party into a millstone around the necks of the president and the government. There have been some issues in the past two years that have led to the occasional round being fired at the party leadership. How-ever, none have ricocheted in Chen's direction and most of the issues have proven to be small prob-lems. So this view of the situation would also seem to be somewhat wide of the mark.

The third possibility centers on the lack of a formal mechanism for integrated decision-making involving the president, the Cabinet, the party and the DPP's legislative caucus. This means that the leadership doesn't communicate, the lower echelons are obstructed, information isn't shared and the exchange of ideas becomes impossible. So party members are not only not talking with one voice, they are creating problems for colleagues.

In addition, the decisions of Chen's nine-person policy-making group are not very clear and it is obvious the group has yet to agree on its raison d'etre, much less its operational style. This view, however, mistakenly assumes a relationship between the issues of the president doubling as party chairman and whether or not decision-making can be integrated. These two issues have nothing to do with each other. If they did, it would also seem logical to have the president take on the premiership as well in order to achieve integration. Clearly, this opinion is also flawed.

The fourth possibility revolves around speculation that internecine power struggles and turf wars between factions have lead to incursions into Chen's own brief, damaging his prestige and possibly impeding his re-election bid. Chen, therefore, would have no choice but to take over the party leadership and command the troops from there. Before he was elected, however, Chen was the leader of all the party factions. Now that he is president, who would dare to stand in his way? This possibility lacks merit.

Since all of the above hypo-theses are invalid, we are left with possibility that the experience of the last two years has led Chen to the mistaken conclusion that if he does take on the chairmanship, the Cabinet and the party will suddenly begin to display heretofore unseen levels of efficiency and competence. Or maybe he simply thinks that the advantages of the move outweigh the disadvantages.

If this is what Chen thinks, however, then he does not recognize the negative impact not only to himself but to the DPP and Taiwan politics in general.

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