Wed, Jan 25, 2006 - Page 8 News List

DPP must steer course toward the 2008 poll

By Chin Heng-wei 金恆煒

As the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) former chairman, Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), becomes the premier and DPP Legislator Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) the vice premier, the Su-Tsai ticket for the 2008 presidential election has basically been set.

Although President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) claims that the new Cabinet appointments are unrelated to the presidential poll, the two have received their entrance tickets to that race. The next two years will be a crucial period for them, and the success or failure of Chen's rule will inevitably be tied to their performance. If they succeed, Chen will also emerge as a winner.

New Cabinet members have been appointed -- starting with the finance and economics ministers. This is an indication of the priorities of Su's new Cabinet. The prompt appointment of these two ministers highlights their significance, not to mention that the direction of cross-strait relations is involved.

What we really care about is whether Chen's policy of "active management, effective opening" can be truly implemented. This will be a test for Su, as well as Chen and his party.

Many of the new Cabinet members are Chen's intimates. This is hardly a surprise. He has served as head of state for almost six years and concurrently for a period of time as DPP chairman. All political appointees are considered his intimates more or less.

Besides, viewed from Taiwan's constitutional system, it is impossible for him to be a president in name only, or take a do-nothing attitude after his appointment of the premier.

Many of the former Cabinet members have gotten new posts. Former minister of the interior Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) who originally planned to run for the Kaohsiung mayoral seat this year, was appointed as chairman of the Council of Agriculture after negotiations with Chen, who also arranged for minister of foreign affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) to become the new Presidential Office secretary-general.

This shows the inseparability between the Presidential Office and the Executive Yuan.

Moreover, this is Su's first time heading the central government. Hs only previous administrative posts were as commissioner of Pingtung and Taipei counties. Chen will certainly be Su's most important guide in his new position.

Building a strong record of administrative achievements is a must as the DPP faces three important elections over the next two years. Under such circumstances, it would be difficult for Chen and Su not to team up.

DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun has made his own arrangements -- appointing Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), a former Government Information Office chief, as the party's secretary-general, and Lai I-chung (賴怡忠), the director of foreign policy studies at Taiwan Thinktank, as the head of its China affairs department.

This also marks the appearance of the party's "second echelon," as it is appointing those from the relatively new generation to strengthen itself internally, so as to consolidate a sustainable regime. If the party is strong, then the administration is strong, and vice versa.

The DPP's greatest challenge is surely the 2008 presidential election.

The challenge is related to the continuance of Taiwan's democratization and localization, and the question of whether self-awareness can defeat unification -- the ultimate goal of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

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