Sat, Dec 31, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Corruption is not the real problem

By Lin Cho-shui 林濁水

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members see the chairperson election as the first step in revitalizing the party. However, judging by the policies proposed by the three candidates, the situation is really worrisome.

Of the three, Legislator Chai Trong-rong's (蔡同榮) campaign strategy is the most appealing to diehard DPP supporters, as he promises to push for referendums on the arms procurement plan, a new constitution and a name change for the country. But a chairperson only serves a two-year term, and the DPP is, in any case, on the back foot. By pushing for things that even President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) failed to accomplish when he was at the peak of his powers, Chai seems to be making empty promises.

Next, since one of the causes of the DPP's election defeat was the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp scandal involving high-level officials, all three candidates have made rooting out corruption a priority. In fact, former Changhua County commissioner Wong Chin-chu's (翁金珠) clean record and good character seem to be her only campaign platforms.

It is odd that all three candidates have placed so much emphasis on corruption, as there was not much wrong with the character and record of the candidates who performed so badly in the recent local government elections. On the other hand, many of the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) candidates were accused of having taken out excessive loans, having defaulted on loan repayments or simply being corrupt. As a whole, the DPP is still in relatively good shape. The real problem lies with the party's leaders.

However, these leaders are now aware that even the walls have ears and the judicial system is eyeing them without sympathy. Thus, they will have to conduct themselves with circumspection in the next few years.

For the past six years, Chen has favored a leadership style that emphasized closed-door decision-making and repeated policy changes. He has been short-sighted and willful and lacks an overall strategy. No wonder the administration has been frequently embarrassed.

Today, his authority has declined significantly, but his methods remain the same. As a result, more embarrassments are to be expected. But neither Chai nor Wong have focused on this weakness, as their campaigns have emphasized either ideological coloring or personal integrity. Although former Presidential Office secretary-general Yu Shyi-kun has addressed the issue, he cannot do so from a position of strength because of his close relationship with Chen.

Of the three, Wong probably has the greatest integrity, but she is running for the post on the strength of support from former chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄), a "moral absolutist." This is also a cause for concern, because an absolutist is often arbitrary and merciless. Basically, Chen is also an absolutist. But he is an absolutist of power, not morality. In the past six years, the nation's political situation often languished in a state of unresolved confrontation as a result. Essentially, political decisions are choices made on the basis of values and interests, and there should be room for rational discussion. But if we see such choices as the battle between absolute good and absolute evil, the room for democracy is drastically reduced. The rash constitutional amendment that halved the legislature serves as an example.

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