Sat, Dec 03, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: The sloth weeps, the vandal laughs

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is in disarray. No other word can describe an organization that allowed Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) to attend, without censure, a Moonies gathering days before an election to listen to that cult's founder prattle on about spirits visiting Earth. More likely, the spirits are here to chortle as some DPP icons fall flat on their faces after the most stultifying election campaign in memory.

But Lu's pilgrimage was innocuous compared with the release of Taichung Mayor Jason Hu's (胡志強) medical details at the hands of the DPP. This astonishing betrayal of professional ethics was probably illegal, and all associated with it should be punished to the limit of the law. President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) himself made use of the incident by insinuating that Hu was physically unfit for the job -- a spurious argument, given that Hu has been one of the most entertaining candidates on offer.

The use of this tactic by Chen and other senior DPP figures points to the desperation of people who have run out of ideas and given up trying to inspire Taiwanese to build a better country.

The DPP has also failed to learn the lesson of the previous legislative contest: Local elections, though not without cross-strait significance, are fought and won on domestic issues and local connections. Instead, voters have been treated to the same tired spectacle of senior DPP politicians parachuting into local constituencies and warning of a cross-strait apocalypse if the pan-blue camp wins. Such tactics will be rewarded with a lower voter turnout.

The sobering reality is that the DPP holds less than 10 percent of all township-level administrations and less than 20 percent of city and county council seats. In these contests, the DPP was always going to "lose" the election in the face of an enduring Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presence and local clan and other non-aligned interests; what was important for the DPP was to make inroads, yet there has been little apparent enthusiasm for taking up this essential task.

The KMT has a chance of gaining county-level governments in Taipei and Ilan counties and Chiayi City. The DPP's grim challenge is to retain these seats, though Miaoli County offers a freak opportunity. The DPP's biggest concern should be failing to place its young guns into the next level of administrative influence and losing a new generation of capable national leaders. A balance of losses in Taipei County, Taichung City, Nantou County and Pingtung County would be disastrous for morale and trigger party bloodletting.

The KMT and Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) hope to celebrate tonight, especially given that the party was all but written off before the legislative elections. But Taiwanese have a lot to be concerned about, because Ma's charisma and charm have not translated into better governance in Taipei City, nor is he likely, with a good election result, to purge the inner sanctum of the KMT of its ill will toward this nation.

The People First Party could suffer losses in council seats, echoing its steep decline in the legislative elections. The Taiwan Solidarity Union may stand to gain council seats over disaffection with the DPP, but this will be little other than symbolic.

The result of this sad state of affairs will be the KMT claiming a new mandate for its agenda of legislative obstruction all the way up to the next presidential election. Such is Taiwanese democracy: The price of punishing the slothful is empowering the vandal.

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