Thu, Feb 27, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Soong good at knowing when to use what person

By Chin Heng-wei 金恆煒

In the 2000 presidential election, James Soong (宋楚瑜) was confident of victory. He did not want to be subordinate to Lien Chan (連戰) and was therefore unwilling to play the supporting role in a Lien-Soong ticket. So he raised a "supra-partisan" banner, claiming to transcend party political boundaries.

He cited the political situation in South Korea, saying that he intended to stay away from the "ever-changing mood of party competition and cooperation." He believed that both competition and cooperation between parties was nothing more than a game of power distribution. He took a bold attempt to walk on a "supra-partisan" path. He did not choose an "inter-party" alliance.

Soong at that time abandoned the KMT like a pair of worn-out shoes. Because he had no support from his party, he contrived the "supra-partisan" idea as a weapon against the KMT and the DPP. He even claimed that his approach was the true "mainstream of the new century."

Later, Soong formed the PFP, hoping to count on the 4.6 million votes that he had won in order to defeat the KMT in the legislative election at the end of the same year and his "supra-partisan" idea in so doing vanished before our eyes.

As the 2004 presidential election approaches, Soong's prestige wanes, particularly due to the presence of a "natural enemy" like Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). So he has no choice but to turn back and seek cooperation with Lien. He has ditched his "anti-alliance" position.

The most absurd aspect of all this is that the slogan "mainstream of the new century" upon which Soong was so keen to lavish time and attention three years ago, has unexpectedly been revived to describe the old strategy of "inter-party alliance" that he used to denounce, making a mockery of him because he used to talk so glibly about "the third way." Just like the "supra-partisan" idea, the notion of a "high-quality political party" promises to baffle us.

Thanks to people like Soong, the most terrible thing about party politics in this country is that politicians often go to two extremes. On the one hand, they act despicably in every possible way, towards people they consider to be of no use to them. On the other hand, they heap adoration, in every possible way, on people they consider to be of use to them.

Chin Heng-wei is editor-in-chief of Contemporary Monthly magazine.

Translated by Grace Shaw

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