Thu, Feb 17, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Leadership needed for revised dynamics

By Liu Kuan-teh劉冠德

Politics in Taiwan is changing fast. If the result of the last legislative elections help create a political reconciliation between the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the pan-blue opposition, the Lunar New Year break should have served as a time out for all the parties to adjust their strategies in the face of changing political dynamics.

In real politics, a short-term victory does not necessarily translate into a long-term win and today's adversary may be tomorrow's ally. The art of politics is to always respect your opponents.

Taiwan's newborn democracy and yet-so-mature political institutionalization requires a period of political realignment and societal reflection, especially after a decade-long political standoff and heated elections.

It is imperative for President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to have the will to push for national reconciliation at this historical moment. Given the pan-blues' dominance in the legislature, Chen has no choice but to lower his voice.

But bending his knees does not mean Chen has to give up his principles. The remainder of Chen's term should be characterized by the use of negotiation skills with his political opponents.

A smart leader looking to leave a historical legacy must be able to judge when to run up the flag and charge, or to mediate and seek to move the consensus by stages.

On the first working day after the Lunar New Year Chen pledged that the government will place a priority on reforms in crime-fighting, health insurance and taxes and overhauling both the government and the Constitution. By doing so he has crossed party lines to advocate a balanced policy implementation and fashioned a compromise on party-to-party contact.

No matter what the results are, Chen will move into the ascendancy, not because he is a skillful politician who excels at political maneuvering, but because he is more pragmatic than his counterparts and able to seize the momentum from the pubic's call for an end to partisan dispute and uphold the public interests.

Chen's readjustment of his leadership will have a huge influence on leaders of other political forces.

People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) was smart enough to be able to take advantage of his decisive role to score points between the DPP and the Chinese Nationlist Party (KMT).

In this regard, the reported plans for a post-holiday meeting between Chen and Soong could be a chance to break the ice in the rigid political standoff between the governing and the opposition parties.

Both Chen and Soong will have to convince their supporters of the importance of such a meeting, given their past rivalry. However, if the political climate allows politicians to temporarily suspend their differences and open the door for dialogue, a smart politician would not miss this chance.

Meanwhile, KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and his followers are still obsessed with their legislative victories and have utilized what they call "the new legitimacy" to refuse a power-sharing offer from the Cabinet. Lien's misreading of this situation will cost him in terms of public opinion.

A leader in a conciliatory era need not limit his goals, but he must just lower his voice and take smaller steps. The leader who indulges his own personality, whether angry or conciliatory, at the expense of matching the public's mood, is guilty of hubris.

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