Tue, Jan 24, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Reshuffle to help ease the political wrangling

By Apollo Chen 陳學聖

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) have been at odds, and this has dealt a blow to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Although the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is gloating over the DPP's misfortune and is predicting a dismal future for the party, I believe the DPP will make a comeback once the current crisis is over.

Two factors, one long-term and one short-term, have led to the DPP's decline and its losses in last month's local government elections.

The long-term factor is Chen's intervention in the premier's moves to implement policy, which brought the administrative machinery to a standstill. The short-term factor was the blow to Hsieh's image resulting from the scandal surrounding the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp. These two knotty problems placed the DPP in a difficult position.

However, these issues may very well improve once Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) takes over.

First of all, in the DPP's political culture, defeat is often an asset rather than a liability. When Su resigned from his post as DPP chairman after the election defeat, his popularity rose to unprecedented heights. The reason for this was that he was willing to take responsibility for the loss, although most believed he was not the one responsible. Placed in stark contrast to Hsieh's unwillingness to resign, Su's exceptional resolve was highlighted.

Second, the long-term factor of Chen's intervention diminishing. Just like Hsieh, Su has sufficient political support within the party to counter Chen. Had Hsieh not been plagued by the KRTC scandal, it would have been difficult for Chen to replace him.

Likewise, it will be easier for Chen to bring in Su than to replace him, and we can also expect Su to use his strength to form his own policies.

Third, the KMT's victory in last month's elections was the result of KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) unassailable clean image. Su also has rarely been involved in disputes over corruption since becoming a politician. Su's decision to appoint former Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) as vice premier also improves his image.

In view of these points, an era of negative political competition is coming to an end, and the DPP after this realignment will be a force to reckon with.

The KMT also has to try to improve itself instead of relying on Ma's popularity alone. The KMT also has to win public support based on positive competition. If the KMT and the DPP can engage in positive and fair political competition, it will be to the benefit of all Taiwanese.

Apollo Chen is a former KMT legislator.

Translated by Daniel Cheng

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