Tue, Oct 25, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Cure needed for the political flu

Some of Taiwan's neighbors are continuing to watch closely for further cases of avian flu, but Taiwan itself has remained free of the disease so far. Hopefully such good luck will last so that the nation can avoid human deaths, financial losses to poultry farmers and the slaughter of migratory birds.

But while Taiwan has so far been spared, its political environment seems to get sicker by the day. The governing and opposition parties are growing more confrontational, trading trumped-up accusations and even blows on the legislative floor. This is the political epidemic that always seems to take hold of the nation before elections -- and it could become disastrous.

With the Dec. 3 local government elections drawing near, some politicians are bending over backwards to laud China's rise and denigrate their own nation, completely at ease with the Chinese regime's authoritarian nature. On one television talk show, a caller even suggested using suicide bombing as a political weapon -- without reproach by the host of the program.

If the nation's political climate continues to deteriorate at this level, and if political parties refuse to moderate their behavior, the specter of violence may loom larger.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has been touring the nation, stumping for Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidates. Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) has also given interviews outlining the government's policies. In the heat of the campaign trail, Chen criticized former Vice President Lien Chan (連戰) for accepting a "shamefully large" pension, as well as slamming People First Party Chairman James Soong's (宋楚瑜) decision to obstruct the passage of the arms-procurement bill in the legislature. Chen also accused KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of being involved in a dubious land deal and pointed the finger at Wu Tse-yuan (伍澤元) and Liu Sung-fan (劉松藩), both former pan-blue camp politicians who are wanted by the police.

Chen has thrown himself into the campaign with some verve. But, it should be remembered, his efforts did not help the DPP win a legislative majority last year -- and were probably counterproductive. Will this year's efforts be more successful? So far, it would appear the tenor of his campaign will not help achieve the reconciliation between political parties that he has appealed for.

Ma's performance, meanwhile, has been disappointing. He sidestepped Chen's accusations of involvement in the illegal sale of land belonging to the Institute on Policy Research and Development by flippantly telling Chen to spend less time appearing on television and get a medical check-up. Such impudence damages his own image, and shows his unwillingness to respond to the charges Chen and Hsieh have leveled at him.

Moreover, in supporting pan-blue candidates for the Dec. 3 elections, Ma has repeatedly chanted the slogan, "A pan-green government means a corrupt government." Given the KMT's rotten past during its 50 years in power, does such a statement have any resonance?

Many voters think that the DPP is good at winning elections but lousy at governing. They are also aware of the pan-blue camp's drift toward China. Unfortunately, neither party is willing to take a long, hard look at its own shortcomings. Instead, both devote their energies to smearing their opponent. This is the infection that has caused Taiwanese so much anxiety over so many years -- and there doesn't seem to be any cure in sight.

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