Thu, Jan 26, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Chen must leave the Cabinet alone

By Chiu Hei-yuan 瞿海源

Ever since President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) decided not to remain Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman while he was still president, the chairmanship has gone to two Presidential Office secretary-generals in succession. This established relationship between the president and the party chairman makes it more difficult for the DPP to operate as the democratic party it purports to be.

Ever since the DPP came to power, the strained relationship between Chen and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) has created a less-than-ideal situation for either democracy or effective governance. Regardless of whether Chen is serving as DPP chairman, he is still a very influential figure within the party. Lu's decision to serve as acting chairwoman following the departure of former DPP chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) unnerved many of the DPP's rank and file.

Chen has been unable to get along with the succession of premiers he has had. Following in the footsteps of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), Chen holds the erroneous, and even unconstitutional, belief that he is the one calling the shots in matters relating to national defense, diplomacy and cross-strait relations.

In addition, he also tends to intervene in the formation of the Cabinet, preventing the premier from organizing his Executive Yuan team the way that he wants. If this situation persists, there are always going to be problems with the Cabinet.

In 2000, the DPP found themselves in a perfect situation with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) split by internal divisions, which placed Chen in an ideal position to wield the central government the way he wanted following his election. It also gave him almost unlimited power with which to expand his sphere of control. Unfortunately he failed to establish a sound and democratic decision-making mechanism, locking both the Executive Yuan and the DPP into a state of inaction.

The reality is that the DPP government is in Chen's grip, and its lack of competence in the governance of the country has meant that the Cabinet has lost its ability to govern. Because of these problems, the DPP's popularity ratings have also been declining.

When this poor performance is brought to light during major elections, Chen takes little or no responsibility, leaving the blame to the party or the Cabinet. After last month's local government elections, in which the DPP won less than half of the seats, Chen accepted the resignation of the DPP chairman. Yet it is precisely the fact that those in power are not held responsible for the government's failings that was the root cause of the DPP's defeat.

The DPP still can make a comeback and improve its image among the public in the two years before Chen's term ends in 2008. To accomplish this, Chen should consider what is best for the sustainable development of both his party and the nation, as well as conduct a thorough reform of the way power is used within the government.

He should stop his excessive intervention and allow the DPP and the Cabinet to exert their greatest efforts in helping the nation to thrive in every aspect. If Chen allows the government to perform its duties as it should, he will be able to better fulfil his own role.

Both DPP chairman-elect Yu Shyi-kun and Su should be the two people whom Chen trusts the most, in particular the premier. Whoever takes up the premiership should be someone whom Chen believes possesses the best administrative skills. Since Chen is supposed to trusts these men, he should not doubt them but let them do all they can to run the Cabinet and the DPP.

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