Thu, Jan 26, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Constructive aggressiveness needed

By Liu Kuan-teh 劉冠德

The most basic decision any modern political leader must make is whether to take an aggressive or conciliatory approach. Sometimes one must decide to press on with bold initiatives without consulting the opposition and appeal directly to the public. But sometimes incremental changes brought about using the subtle art of negotiation are needed to help bring a nation back onto the right track.

For the past five years, President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) administration has been fluctuating between confrontation and reconciliation when dealing with the pan-blue opposition.

Regretfully, what has caused most of the political strife during this period is the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government's lack of judgement as to when it has sufficient mandate to run up the flag and charge, or when they need to seek consensus and move things along in stages as a minority government.

Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) becoming premier is a manifestation of such a political dynamic.

The main reason for the departure of former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) was the failure of his Cabinet's moderate approach in seeking reconciliation with the pan-blue alliance -- especially after the latter continued to boycott all government policy.

Last month's local government elections were the straw that broke the camel's back after the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) -- under the leadership of new Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) -- outperformed the DPP in several important counties and cities.

It is therefore understandable that the president altered the strategy of reconciliation and dialogue used over the last year into a more pragmatic and Taiwan-centered stance before he reshuffled the Cabinet.

As the mood of the nation has become exhausted by all the partisan wrangling and the political decay of the DPP government, the public is now looking to its new leaders and officials to be more accountable and responsible.

Su's integrity and efficient management during his term as governors of both Pingtung and Taipei counties is the best weapon available to the DPP government in its fight to regain public trust.

Nevertheless, Su alone will not be enough to rejuvenate public confidence in the government. Forming a "combat team" with expertise in trade, economics, social welfare, national security and adequate policy coordination techniques constitute the basic challenges for Su's Cabinet.

Su's efficient organization of his team -- bringing in a lot of new faces to the Cabinet -- illustrates the government's strong determination to pursue balanced policy implementation and use "constructive aggressiveness" when dealing with the pan-blue dominated legislature.

Any skillful politician knows how to incorporate communication and persuasion into policy making without necessarily sacrificing his or her fundamental principles. It is therefore imperative for Su's Cabinet to generate momentum in its working relationship with the pan-blue-dominated legislature while at the same time taking note of the general call to put aside partisan disputes and uphold the public interest.

It is to be expected that the pan-blues, knowing full well that Su is likely to be one of the main contenders for the DPP's ticket in the 2008 presidential race, will not give him an easy ride. But since Su is the most popular political leader within the pan-green camp, the pan-blue camp's continued use of its legislative majority to sabotage everything the government proposes will ultimately backfire in the eyes of the public.

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