Fri, Dec 02, 2005 - Page 8 News List

'Local' polls, 'national' importance

By Chiu Hei-yuan 瞿海源

During the "Super Sunday" election rallies last weekend, tens of thousands of both the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) supporters took to the streets, chanting "Oppose corruption, save Taiwan" and "Uphold reform, defend Taiwan" respectively.

This type of sloganeering reflects each party's perception of the current political climate and their ideologies. The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) firmly believes that it has stumbled upon a golden opportunity to oppose corruption by exposing the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp (KRTC) scandal, that the DPP has plunged the nation into crisis and that only it can save the nation.

As for the DPP, it has always been proud of its reformist credentials, but recently the party has become frustrated over its inability to deliver. This hasn't stopped it from calling for reform in every election over the last three years. Now that it is in the role of the underdog, the party has pledged to "defend Taiwan" in order to consolidate its hold on power.

The key point in all of this is that both parties, whether trying to "save Taiwan" or to "defend Taiwan," see Taiwan as a sovereign entity.

Saturday's elections are only local polls, so the scale of the campaigns, which have included rallies all over Taiwan and even in Taipei City, where there are no elections, seems inappropriate.

With votes taking place across the nation, except for Taipei and Kaohsiung cities, it was unavoidable that they would become a major showdown between the pan-greens and pan-blues.

For the KMT, it is clearly a case of Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), its new chairman, challenging President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) struggling administration. Politically, the results of the elections will be crucial to the future development of both the DPP and KMT and possibly the outcome of the 2008 presidential election. Therefore, these "three-in-one" local elections have escalated into a confrontation over whether the KMT can "save" Taiwan or whether the DPP can "defend" Taiwan.

Starting out as a party free of corruption, the DPP has recently been overwhelmed by the opposition's unrelenting criticism of its failings. So much so, that it seems the DPP is riddled by scandals, but in fact there are only two cases troubling the party, namely, the so-called "vulture investment group" insider-trading case and the KRTC scandal.

The probe into the KRTC scandal has the DPP facing its biggest crisis since it came to power or even since it was established, after former deputy presidential office secretary-general Chen Che-nan (陳哲男), stunned the public by breaking the law while serving in the Presidential Office.

We cannot help but wonder if the president finds it difficult to employ good people. After all, the staff members who have worked directly under him have always been controversial. Ever since the president was sworn in for his second term, he has been unable to make headway in the legislature because of the KMT's majority.

After five years in power, the president still lacks the wisdom and tolerance that is required to be an effective national leader. The exposure of the KRTC scandal has simply fanned the flames of discontent among the public. To help in the elections, Chen Shui-bian has traveled around the country to stump for the DPP's candidates and, at times, made imprudent utterances. This has only backfired on himself and the DPP.

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