Wed, Oct 04, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Taking a page out of 'Animal Farm'

By Jerome Keating

Taiwanese politics continues at its helter-skelter pace, full of anomalies, full of posturing, full of characters and full of TV shows with satirical and serious commentary.

Some of the politicians and characters involved have been likened to animals by pundits because of the similarity of their antics. None are endangered species, though some in the pan-green camp probably wish they were. As a matter of fact, each in his own way has shown an amazing ability to adapt to changing environments.

The first animal some people call the fox. The wily fox neither plants nor sows; he lives off his neighbors. As a politician, the fox is known for his wiles and though he has not won every contest, he is a survivor. In power, he can be known for largesse with the taxpayer's money, which may explain why he maintains a number of hanger-ons despite not having had an elected position or job for some eight years.

Right now, long-time observers are curiously watching the fox. A man that was recently convicted of tax evasion (yes, that's conviction with a capital "C"). Still, the fox has managed to consistently put in appearances and be welcomed at the pan-blue anti-corruption rallies of another animal we'll discuss shortly. What is of more interest is whether the fox will run for mayor of the largest city in Taiwan.

The election for Taipei mayor are barely two months away. For any other member of a major party to have not officially de-clared candidacy by now would be political suicide. Not so for the wily fox.

The fox has already passed up a chance to run for and no doubt be elected to the Legislative Yuan. Such a position would be too limited for one who feels he should be president. Yet at 64 years old, his political opportunities are diminishing. Another is the most likely pan-blue presidential candidate for 2008. The fox would be 70 in 2012.

So what is the fox waiting for? The position of Taipei mayor has power, a budget and visibility. However, another strong candidate for Taipei mayor is the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate. Is the fox afraid that he might be beaten by the KMT? There is a good chance that the KMT candidate would beat the fox in a one-on-one battle among the pan-blue forces.

Still, by running, the fox would split the pan-blue vote and help the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate to win. Would he want to use that as a bargaining chip with the KMT for special favors? The fox has both deep friends and deep enemies in the KMT camp. To blackmail the KMT with the threat of his running is a double-edged sword. Long term, it might serve monetary but not political ambitions. Despite the anti-Chen protests, all eyes will be watching the fox closely over the next two months.

A second person is sometimes called the weasel. A showboat idealist at the beginning, the weasel has managed to shamelessly parlay his way into both pan-green and pan-blue camps for his advantage. Like former Chinese leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東), he currently delights in leading his Red Guard. The guards are made up primarily of hard core, disgruntled pan-blues along with a portion of the idealistic but naive strawberry generation who have no sense of history pre-1996.

The latter group sadly has a myopic and hypocritical slant on corruption in Taiwan's history and politics. Fortunately for Taiwan, the weasel does not have Mao's influence or power to unleash them on the countryside. Further, the grass-roots people of the countryside in Kaohsiung, Tainan and the south have quickly let the Red Guard know their ignorance and hypocrisy are not welcome down there.

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