Thu, Feb 03, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Hsieh Cabinet has three challenges

By Hsu Yung-ming 徐永明

On Jan. 26, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) appointed Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) premier, amid an atmosphere of political reconciliation following last December's legislative elections. Hsieh is the forth Democratic Progress Party (DPP) premier in less than five years.

After his appointment was announced, Hsieh gave interviews to various media outlets and spoke of his ideas for the new administration. During the interviews, Hsieh said the new Cabinet is a "Cabinet of negotiation" that will not push ahead with changing the national title, and will recognize that the Constitution supports a "one China" interpretation.

Hsieh's remarks have become a topic of heated debate and even provoked a backlash within the green camp, members of which fear that Hsieh is pandering to the enemy and weakening his own position as a result.

After People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) returned to Taiwan from his trip to the US, the pan-blue ticket of Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-ping (王金平) and PFP Legislator Chung Jung-chi (鐘榮吉) for the legislative speaker election was confirmed. The likelihood of a DPP-PFP coalition in the legislature, therefore fizzled out.

The cross-strait charter flights for the upcoming Lunar New Year holidays began a few days ago, breaking fresh ground for the cross-strait relationship at a time when Chen was on an official trip to Palau and Hsieh's new Cabinet was poised to begin addressing the challenges confronting the new administration.

Hsieh faces three major challenges. First, he has to deal with the proposal for cross-party reconciliation. Second, he has to define the implementation of cross-party cooperation, which will be a new experience for both the DPP and the pan-greens.

Even simply imagining the formulation of a possible DPP-PFP coalition is difficult. The pan-blue Wang-Chung ticket for the Legislative Yuan Speakership election has now been elected. In a mood of defeat, it's possible the green camp might again take up a cutthroat approach in dealing with the pan-blues -- an approach they are familiar with.

Changing the political culture is the greatest challenge facing the Hsieh Cabinet. In the past, the question of political victory or defeat was actually quite simple: he who had the majority was elected president. But in Chen's second term, political victory or defeat will depend on the effectiveness of policy implementation.

In the case of non-stop flights across the Strait, it was not important who proposed them: the key was whether or not the DPP government had a policy that balanced Taiwan's sovereignty with cross-strait talks.

Also, it remains to be seen whether the pan-blue dominated legislature can, by virtue of having won the legislative speaker post and through the Control Yuan's exercise of its right to consent, be tamed into becoming a platform for fluid cross-party alliances.

The concept of such a platform is not easy to grasp, as there is no objective standard to help define it. To take the situation from the DPP's perspective as an example, one would imagine that they would prefer a DPP-PFP combination, rather than the current one, consisting of a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) member and one from the PFP. The immediate risk of a DPP-PFP combination would be that the PFP would simply disintegrate.

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