Sun, Jul 02, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Pan-blue games were Soong's idea

By Chin Heng-wei 金恆煒

The opposition parties' sensational campaign to recall President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and topple the Cabinet are nothing more than saber rattling, or -- as Shakespeare said -- much ado about nothing.

US political scientist Dennis Wrong pithily remarked that when a politician claims to act in the public's best interest, the appropriate question to ask is, "Who really stands to benefit?" The political reality, Wrong observed, is all too often one of politicians being manipulative and concealing the fact that their actions benefit the privileged few.

The effort to oust Chen was doomed from the beginning and so is the effort to topple the Cabinet, begging the question of why the pan-blues are destabilizing society in the pursuit of an untenable agenda. In seeking to recall Chen, both Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) have achieved little besides whipping up anti-Chen sentiment.

In turn, this begs several other questions: Who will benefit from this pan-blue agenda? Who is cashing in on the allegations leveled at Chen's family and aides? The short answer is Soong but not Ma.

Chen remains completely unscathed by the pan-blues' attempts to unseat him, and the recall motion and plans to topple the Cabinet have instead served to rally the pan-greens around their president. Ma initially opposed the recall of Chen and instead advocated a vote of no confidence in the Cabinet to take the edge off Soong's call to remove Chen, but then changed his tune to support the recall motion. Soong has not only successfully secured an admission ticket to the year-end Taipei mayoral race by proposing to oust Chen, but he has also managed to make Ma a scapegoat for opposing the no-confidence vote.

Soong has once again placed himself directly in the limelight. However, this does not mean that Soong has outperformed Ma; he has merely upstaged him. That Ma lacks key political skills is common knowledge. Recent events have further demonstrated that he also lacks leadership ability, and his claims that he is a tough party leader are beginning to ring hollow. Ma did not wish to launch a presidential recall bid at first due to his fears that Soong would use the bid to hoard pan-blue voters.

To counterbalance Soong, Ma had little choice but to seek to topple the Cabinet. Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) hit the nail on the head when he said that toppling the Cabinet would only benefit the KMT because toppling the Cabinet would trigger a dissolution of the legislature and premature legislative elections, which would most likely result in the disintegration of the PFP, heralding the end of Soong's political career.

The stakes are especially high in light of the fact that PFP and KMT legislators alike are unwilling to risk their jobs by forcing the Cabinet to resign en masse -- and the issue is dividing the KMT. If Ma wields his power to push for a vote of no-confidence in the Cabinet, he might very well split the KMT into opposing factions, a move that would seriously diminish his authority.

Soong accurately assessed that KMT legislators did not support Ma's call for a no-confidence vote but rather wanted to support the recall campaign. He took advantage of those KMT legislators opposing the no-confidence vote by saying that if the recall motion failed, the next step would be to topple the Cabinet. He thus turned a situation disadvantageous to the PFP away from the PFP and toward the KMT, making Ma support the recall motion over toppling the Cabinet. This placed responsibility for opposing a no-confidence vote on Ma and took the pressure off Soong himself.

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