Thu, Jan 16, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Hsieh fights for his political life

By Ku Er-Teh 顧爾德

The stir over cult leader Sung Chi-li (宋七力), the attacks by entertainer Pai Ping-ping (白冰冰) and the Zanadau scandal all failed to bring down Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷). Will he escape disaster yet again over the vote-buying scandal surrounding Kaohsiung City Council?

Vote-buying in the election for speaker of the city council should be the problem least likely to sully the mayor's reputation. Although the administrative head of a city government will naturally be concerned about the results of city council elections and will also use the political resources at his disposal to influence those elections, it would be a rare chief executive who in the course of a mayoral campaign would be so bold and reckless as to get involved in buying votes from city councilors.

As the boss, how will Hsieh emerge from this situation in one piece? This is not just a judicial question; it is also a question of political credit.

The DPP threw its full weight into helping Hsieh in his re-election bid. In the process, it became the party with the most seats on the city council for the first time in the council's history. Very quickly, however, all these accomplishments, together with the DPP's entire credibility have been consumed by crisis.

It would certainly not be fair to blame Kaohsiung's corrupt political environment entirely on Hsieh. After Chu An-hsiung (朱安雄) and his wife, Wu Te-mei (吳德美), were taken into custody Hsieh said bitterly that the city council could expel the mayor and other officials from the council's chambers, but since in the end the mayor's budget must be approved by the council, he could not criticize the council. All he could do was to hold back his tears.

Organized crime

The city council Hsieh faces is influenced by organized crime, has members who are suspected of major economic fraud and contains opposition party councilors eager to boycott Hsieh on the slightest pretext. Meanwhile, Hsieh's goal is to avoid being constrained by the city council and to accomplish as much as possible as mayor. A good record as mayor will be a necessary prerequisite for any advance in his political career. In order to establish such a record, he needs people like Civil Affairs Bureau director Wang Wen-cheng (王文正) to help him handle the complex city council.

In officialdom, many clever subordinates depend on their own judgement to establish limits when handling complex matters. A clever boss need not concern himself too much with the details of these arrangements and probably won't ask too many questions.

Trust

This is a form of trust and also a sort of opportunism. The boss believes his subordinate can put everything in order, and subordinates shield the boss from being implicated in scandal.

Prior to the council speaker election, most councilors shared a common attitude. Among a batch of rotten apples, they were looking for a couple of relatively good ones. "Relatively good" generally means relatively beneficial or at least not too harmful to oneself or one's own camp. This is also a sort of opportunism. Not even the most heavily represented party can change such a corrupt environment. One can only try to stay out of harm's way or develop good relations with others for everyone's mutual benefit.

Opportunism has become a fertile ground allowing a corrupt political environment to continue to thrive. People who were originally just trying to stay out of harm's way need only drop their guard for an instant and they will be implicated as accomplices to a crime.

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