Sun, Oct 01, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Ma's double standards have a cost

By Liu Kuan-teh 劉冠德

The saddest thing about Taiwanese politics is that when most politicians point their fingers at someone, they fail to see that other fingers are pointing back.

Especially for those who have their eyes on the 2008 presidential election, the campaign to oust President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is a textbook case that should be studied. If one upholds a strict moral code to accuse Chen, his family and close aides of corruption or wrongdoing, he must apply even stricter criteria to judge himself.

Among them, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) obsessive and continuing use of double standards to score political points has finally backfired.

The following are some examples of Ma's flip-flops:

When first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) was accused of receiving vouchers from the SOGO Department Store and her son-in-law was charged with insider trading, Ma insisted that Chen was guilty by association.

However, when former Taitung County commissioner Wu Chun-li (吳俊立) was charged with bribery and his wife ran for election with KMT endorsement, Ma emphasized that Wu's wife "should not bear the crime of her husband."

Ma's ambiguous attitude toward People First Party Chairman James Soong's (宋楚瑜) more radical approach to ousting Chen -- including supporting a no-confidence vote against the Cabinet -- also showed a lack of integrity and decisiveness in strategy making.

When incumbent Keelung Mayor Hsu Tsai-li (許財利) -- Ma's former "pal" in the run-up to last December's local election -- was found guilty recently of trying to sell a piece of land he bought from a business to the Keelung City bus department for a profit, Ma's initial response was to apologize to Keelung and "urge" Hsu to step down voluntarily.

As a lame-duck mayor of Taipei City, most citizens are not impressed by Ma's performance. His relatively high approval rate is due to his personal image, rather that the efficiency of his team.

The decline of internal discipline within the city government has been lost on no one. The latest abuse of power by the director of the Research and Examination Department, Chou Wen-tsai (周韻采), calls into question Ma's capacity to claim the higher moral ground.

Ditto for Ma's use of his executive budget for private affairs. His inability to provide any kind of explanation raises the prospect of corrupt dealings in the mayor's office.

As the anti-corruption sentiment grows amid the campaign to depose Chen, Ma's soft approach to dealing with Hsu was slap him on the wrist. He has applied a blatant double standard to be "harsher on his enemy and softer on his own men," which calls into question his ability and qualifications to be the next national leader.

Indecisiveness in decision making, failure to execute internal discipline, use of double-standards for political ends and a marked tendency toward opportunism are the sum total of Ma's character.

A mirror has two faces. When Ma urged the public to hold a national referendum to force Chen to step down, he must remind himself that he has been walking on the same path that Chen set foot on when he overlooked increasing public dissatisfaction with his performance.

The public insists that leaders fulfill their promises, be consistent with policy and be honest. Instead of molding his public image, the favored contender for president in 2008 must bring strength of character, integrity and consistency to the nation's problems.

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