Thu, Dec 14, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Now improve the political system

By Bruce Jacobs 家博

The mayoral elections in Taipei and Kaohsiung were important primarily because both major political parties stated that they were crucial to Taiwan's future. The elections suggest that vigorous democratic politics will continue in Taiwan.

In a sense, both the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) have won, but neither political party should become complacent. Rather, both must reconsider their basic strategies if Taiwan is to progress politically, economically and socially.

The DPP barely won the Kaohsiung mayoralty. The central government must not take too much comfort from this close result. Rather, it needs to recommit to policies that benefit Taiwan as a nation rather than the DPP as a political party.

For example, if Cabinet ministers are performing well, they must be retained in office. Having five premiers in six years may balance DPP party factions, but it does not reform government. The DPP government can at most appoint three or four persons to each ministry.

Reform takes time and repeated effort. Changing the minister each year only stalls the reform process and creates a halting, stuttering administration. In this context, it would be retrograde if DPP regulations forced Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) to resign this coming March in order to run for the presidency.

Second, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) must control the first family. When senior DPP leaders only half-joke that "the president works hard in the Presidential Office all day and then when he comes home he must work even harder," the DPP has serious problems.

The president firmly believes his wife suffered her paraplegia owing to his participation in politics and this certainly creates feelings of guilt. But why did he promise to send Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) to Kaohsiung if former Council of Labor Affairs chairwoman Chen Chu (陳菊) won the election? Did this sway any voters? Some of the press has treated the first family unfairly, but clearly the first family also has serious problems that must be resolved.

The KMT too must make many changes.

First, it needs to learn the meaning of "loyal opposition." It can and should criticize the government, but it should do so rationally and positively. Both government and opposition want a prosperous and happy Taiwan. It is time that the KMT became more cooperative rather than oppose everything simply to oppose.

The proposals to purchase US arms may have flaws, but Taiwan clearly does need weapons against a threatening enemy and this requires cooperation between government and opposition in the nation's interest.

The opposition too must learn that, to be successful, it must move to the broad center. Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) defeated Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) in the KMT chairmanship election last year because Wang tried to win over the old KMT leaders, people who in any case would not support a Taiwanese. Because KMT members wanted reform in politics, Ma won even in Wang's home Kaohsiung County.

This being the case, why has Ma since then courted the far-right of conservative politics? Why has he tried to do deals with People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) and gain the small minority of Mainlander votes rather than going for the localist Taiwanese center?

This election clearly must spell the end of Soong's political career. A "politician" in all the worst meanings of that word, Soong has not hesitated to spout lies in order to advance his career. To use a baseball analogy, "three strikes and you're out."

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