Tue, Sep 30, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Chen must make choice on running mate soon

By Ku Er-teh 顧爾德

If President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) wins the next election, Taiwan will have another vice president similar to Li Yuan-tzu (李元簇) and Hsieh Tong-min (謝東閔), two former vice presidents who did not succeed to the presidency, since Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Chun-yee (李俊毅) relayed Chen's words that his running mate in the March election would not necessarily be his successor in 2008.

Chen should not have the difficulty deciding on his running mate that he seems to have now. In normal party politics, supposedly those who want to be vice president would have already voiced their wishes, and the candidate preferred by Chen and his party would already have been made known. To have healthy competition, political parties should always show their cards as well as their policies to the public.

However, five months before the election, the DPP is still playing the guessing game of "who will be Chen's running mate?" and the party has gone so far as to say that the vice presidential candidate may not succeed to the presidency. Does the DPP really want long-term rule or not?

By being ambiguous, does Chen aim to surprise his rival camp with his announcement as he did four years ago? Or does he actually have problems striking a deal with his favorite candidate?

No matter what, his ambiguity is harmful to his own party. It is confusing that he praises Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) from time to time while arguing with her on several public occasions about his choice of running mate. He treats Taipei County Commissioner Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) with the same ambiguity.

Su is constantly praised by Chen and accompanies him on many campaign tours. However, he has to face a barrage of questions from the media about his position in next year's election. It is difficult to believe that such ambiguity is not a political tactic.

Surprisingly, the political party that ushered in democracy in Taiwan now indulges in the "royal palace politics" once used by former presidents Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) and Lee Teng-hui (李登輝). It is almost like deja vu of the KMT's rule when we see DPP politicians busy relaying what the president has said and trying to make sense of his ambiguous comments.

If such ambiguity is a strategy meant to deceive the party's rivals, then I'd say it is rather deceiving the DPP instead, as well as the voters. No political rivals will be fooled this time, expecting there to be another Nobel laureate like Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲) to bring a glow to the party's name like four years ago. There won't be such an saintly figure in this election, since politics tarnishes even someone with the brightest halo.

Rumor has it that the DPP's New Tide faction (新潮流系) backs Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to run for the vice presidency, but Tsai has never agreed. She demonstrates her own advantages and charisma. Although her cross-strait policies upset quite a few businesspeople, including Chen's vital supporter, Evergreen chief executive officer Chang Rong-fa (張榮發), she is eloquent when she defends her policies.

Nevertheless, Su's competence and Lu's determination are incomparable. So all of them should make it clear whether they are interested in being Chen's running mate.

Whatever Chen's concern is, he'd better decide on his running mate and announce it soon. It's time to show the voters where the beef is. What he's been doing is not a strategy to deceive rivals but a guessing game that is getting boring.

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