Tue, Jan 25, 2005 - Page 8 News List

A workable coalition needs wisdom

By Chiou Chwei-liang 邱垂亮

Following last month's legislative elections, Taiwan's political landscape, including the rivalry between the pan-blue and pan-green camps and the minority government in the legislature, remains unchanged.

Over the past four years, the politics of opposition between President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) minority Cabinet and the pan-blue camp's position of "opposing everything proposed by Chen" have resulted in a domestic war of attrition in which little can be achieved in government. Chen, knows that this sad state of affairs cannot continue.

If Chen remains lost in despondency during his second term and is too weak to lead the nation and deepen democratic politics -- and push forward with constitutional re-engineering, enhancing ethnic harmony, economic development, make diplomatic breakthroughs, improve cross-strait relations and advance on other major domestic issues -- he will not only forfeit his place in history, he will also stand shamed before his political elders and break the hearts of all Taiwanese people.

Chen, realistically and pragmatically, took his painful experience to heart and delivered a New Year address outlining a grand reconciliation policy of cross-party negotiations, cooperation and political stability. His speech immediately caused a storm of controversy.

The vote distribution in the legislative elections, meanwhile, roused the People First Party's (PFP) hatred toward the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), and prompted post-election criticism from PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜).

Soong has since kept his distance from KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰).

There is even speculation that he might cooperate with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in policymaking.

The DPP responded to the PFP promptly to show its goodwill toward possible DPP-PFP cooperation -- which would include not only policy-making, such as jointly making laws about party assets and cross-strait issues, but also government appointments, such as offering Soong the convenership of the Committee for Cross-Strait Peace and Development, the chairmanship of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), or even the premiership or the vice premiership.

Chen's appeal for reconciliation and political stability by bringing two seemingly incompatible parties together is also supported by former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and his Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU). This is because of Lee's magnanimity and the TSU's understanding of the political situation.

Soong really lives up to his reputation as a master of political intrigue. From the US, he is remotely controlling the current uproar about a possible DPP-PFP collaboration. PFP legislators and party officials have let off "smoke bombs," providing abundant room for the public's imagination to roam as to the feasibility of such an alliance.

But, a rumor has spread that Soong sneers at the DPP's offer of power and position. Some have even vigorously asked Chen to relinquish the idea of Taiwanese independence and make a public apology for the idea. This shows that there is considerable divergence between the two parties in policies and ideology. Because of their history of power struggles, the path out of this impasse will not be smooth.

Coalition governments are common in democratic politics, especially in countries with many political parties. Coalitions and grand coalition governments that span a range of policies, ideologies and degrees of power are not uncommon.

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