In his lecture "Politics as a Vocation," the German sociologist Max Weber mentioned that anyone pursuing a political career should possess three characteristics -- the power of judgment, a sense of responsibility and passion.
In view of the recent controversies over President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) "state affairs fund" and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) special mayoral allowance, it seems politicians now need to possess two further characteristics to be successful: willpower and endurance.
"Willpower" and "endurance" are essential in Taiwan. Following the transfer of power in 2000, political conflict has intensified and the culture of exposing scandals and leveling accusations at political foes has made the public feel that Taiwan never will be peaceful.
Top Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) politicians have been the direct target of these attacks, because the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has an extensive network of moles that makes it easier to obtain detailed information on shady government practices. As a result, the top of the power pyramid -- including Chen, his family and high-level bureaucrats -- have become targets and victims of political attacks.
Given the current political and media structure, pursuing a political career is very much like running an extreme marathon, with every contestant being exposed to the harshest conditions and their every move being put under the microscope.
Ma has recently also been entangled in alleged mishandling of his special mayoral allowance. By turning the tables on the KMT, the DPP has forced opposition leaders to take part in the same extreme marathon.
In most democratic countries, the public cares about their politicians principles, integrity and leadership skills. There are many examples of how an angry public have unseated politicians for making mistakes.
What we need are normal competent political leaders rather than saints of morality or warriors that can endure extreme conditions. Therefore, we should immediately review the rationality of the current system and leave preconceived political ideas aside to establish rules for normal political competition.
Ku Chung-hwa is a professor of sociology at National Chengchi University.
Translated by Daniel Cheng