Mon, Feb 26, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Indictment sheds light on Ma's leadership

By Lo Chih-cheng 羅致政

Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) announced his candidacy for the 2008 presidency on Feb. 13 immediately after being indicted on corruption charges. This means that he could hold the dual role of corruption indictee and presidential candidate.

Whether Ma is guilty or not, the prosecutor has already stated his opinion and presented the evidence in the indictment, which will be reviewed by the court. It is unnecessary, therefore, to make further comment on the issue.

However, since Ma could become Taiwan's next leader, it is absolutely necessary to examine his crisis management abilities and his reaction to the indictment.

Honesty is the best policy, especially when it comes to politicians. However, judging from the contents of the indictment and Ma's statements over the past few months, he has obviously told many lies.

During the first two questioning sessions with prosecutors, Ma said he understood that the special mayoral allowance was a fund intended for public use, while in the third interrogation he changed his tune and said that it was intended for private use -- proof that he was lying.

In the past, he also said that the money was mostly spent to reward his staff, something that has also now been proven to be untrue.

The poor crisis management ability of Ma and his team has again been exposed. In the beginning, they overlooked the significance of the case, and then suddenly donated millions of dollars to charity when the situation began to spin out of control. The various excuses given show the chaotic decision-making process of his team when facing a crisis.

The rumor in political circles that Ma has no friends has been proven through the developments of the case. Many pan-blue camp legislators and pro-blue commentators have gloated over his misfortunes. Even if some intend to defend him, they do not know where to start since only Ma and a small group of top aides know the truth about how his mayoral allowance was used.

Finally, Ma's announcement of his candidacy succeeded in temporarily diverting public attention, but it has also served to highlight his disrespect for the judicial system and his attempt to resolve the problem by playing politics.

This is indeed an ironic development for someone who once served as minister of justice and who has continually stressed his trust in the judiciary and prosecutors throughout the investigation.

In short, legal and political issues should be kept separate. For the people of Taiwan, the main significance of Ma's indictment is not the final verdict. Rather, it is that it allows us to see Ma's leadership skills and personality in a new light.

Lo Chih-cheng is an associate professor in Soochow University's department of political science.

Translated by Eddy Chang

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