Thu, Apr 16, 2009 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Ma Ying-jeou and ‘absolute power’

“With a change of seat comes a change of mind” (換了位置就換了腦袋) is a popular way of describing a politician whose stance vacillates according to what position he or she holds.

A recent example can be found in news suggesting President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) inclination to double as the chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

Ma, who less than a year ago pledged that he would be a “president of the people” and refrain from also serving as KMT chairman, said in an interview with CTI-TV aired on Sunday that it would be easier for him to push policies through and boost government performance if he were to take over as party chairman.

Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) was quick to downplay Ma’s remarks, saying that he was merely making an “objective analysis.” Ma, however, continues to act coy as far as this issue is concerned; he has not responded to speculation that he could run in the election for chairman this July.

A final decision on the matter will be made in June at the earliest, Ma said on Tuesday after a meeting with KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) that has fueled more speculation.

Recall how former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was criticized by KMT politicians for doubling up as Democratic Progressive Party chairman.

The KMT at the time said that Chen was power-hungry and failed to rise above partisanship to be a “president of the people.”

In 2006, the KMT caucus drafted the “four sunshine bills,” proposing a lobbying act, a political party act and amendments to the Political Donation Act (政治獻金法) and the Public Functionary Assets Disclosure Act (公職人員財產申報法).

Under the leadership of then-KMT chairman Ma, the KMT caucus inserted an article into the political party bill that prohibited “the president from doubling as head of a political party.”

Three years later, Ma’s refusal to give a clear answer on the issue indicates that he is no longer against the idea.

“With a change of seat comes a change of mind,” as they say.

With the KMT holding executive power and three-quarters of the legislature, Taiwan is now witnessing the concentration of power in smaller circles.

With several incidents in past months pointing to corrosion of the nation’s democracy, its institutions and its freedoms, if Taiwan were to combine one-party governance with a consolidation of power at the head of that party, the consequences could be far-reaching.

Ma is fond of using the phrase “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely” in his speeches as a warning to others.

But Ma clearly thinks that he is no ordinary person, and that he would be able to overcome the temptations that come with something approaching absolute power. One thing that he will not be able to overcome, however, is opposition from within his party, which has already made itself keenly felt.

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