Wed, Nov 29, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: The nation's voters are watching

It has been a demoralizing week for both the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), with their leaders, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), finding themselves in hot water. And their problems have been of their own making.

The DPP's Central Review Committee is expected to discuss tomorrow how to discipline first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍). The DPP charter, which was amended under Chen's chairmanship, stipulates that members need only be indicted on corruption charges to have their party membership suspended, while a conviction necessitates immediate expulsion.

According to this rule, Wu's DPP membership should already have been suspended for her indictment on corruption and forgery charges in connection with the president's "state affairs fund."

But on Thursday, the committee couldn't reach a quorum to discuss the matter. Although certain members had planned to refrain from attending meetings indefinitely, or at least until after the upcoming elections, public pressure has compelled them to convene tomorrow to discuss Wu's case.

Ma has also been questioned by prosecutors over irregularities in the use of his special mayoral allowance. He has promised that if he is indicted, he will abide by KMT rules that demand the suspension of his party membership and his resignation from the party's chairmanship.

To resolve Ma's crisis, some KMT members have proposed an amendment to the party's rules, while other members have begun to make plans that would allow him to register as an independent candidate representing the pan-blue camp in the 2008 presidential race.

Chen and Ma both wanted to formulate strict party rules to crack down on "black gold," or corruption.

The KMT mayor of Keelung, Hsu Tsai-li (許財利), the DPP's former minister of the interior, Yen Wan-chin (顏萬進), and former Financial Supervisory Commission member Lin Chung-cheng (林忠正) were therefore expelled from their parties in accordance with party regulations.

Now the hammer is coming down on Ma, but it is not clear whether he will follow party rules or seek to tiptoe around them.

In terms of party rules, this is a simple issue.

Politically, however, it is much more difficult. This is not about individual people, families or political parties, but about safeguarding the credibility of the parties in question. Chen and Ma face a situation that will not only affect the immediate present, but that will also influence Taiwan's future direction.

Chen and Ma should remember the reasons why they amended their party charters in the first place. If integrity is an ideal that the DPP and the KMT value, then Chen and Ma may have to sacrifice their positions. If rules are twisted to help them stay in or attain office, it would be tantamount to deciding that the process is secondary to political "necessity."

Chen and Ma have proclaimed their innocence. They may be indicted at some point, but that is for the judicial system to work out.

The nation's political parties, however, must do some serious soul searching. The DPP and the KMT must decide whether their rules are indeed standards to live up to, or whether they exist only to be broken when political expedience deems it necessary.

Under DPP rules, Wu should be expelled.

Under KMT rules, if he is indicted, Ma's membership in the party should be suspended and he should resign as chairman.

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