Wed, Jul 13, 2011 - Page 8 News List

A leader needs to act, not only talk

By Liu Shih-chung 劉世忠

Leadership is a dynamic tension between where a national leader thinks his or her country must go and where the voters want it to go. Bold initiatives that leave the voters behind are not acts of leadership, but of self--indulgent arrogance. Reform-minded agendas that lack the determination and action to be realized are nothing but electoral politicking.

As a young democracy, Taiwan has experienced more internal confrontation than conciliation. Even after alternating governing parties in the past decade, the country is still driven by highly partisan polarization and the lack of domestic consensus on key issues, such as cross-strait relations and partisan reconciliation.

After beating the then--governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) by more than nearly 2.2 million votes in 2008, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) stood a better chance than his predecessor, former DPP president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), to bridge the social division and generate domestic consensus on major issues. Regretfully, Ma wasted his mandate and window of opportunity to seek national reconciliation and move forward on key political reforms during the past three years.

Former Control Yuan president and loyal Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) member Friedrich Chien (錢復) recently criticized Ma for his unrealistic attempt to become a “president for all the people.”

Chien said this attitude has led to a continued decline of Ma’s popularity in both the pan-blue and pan-green camps. However, Chien’s assessment is wrong because Ma has never tried to become a “president for all the people.” Rather, the Ma administration’s poor governance has increased its distance from the majority of Taiwanese.

Ma’s biggest weakness is that he never admits he is wrong. What is even worse is that he often shifts responsibility to others when he makes mistakes or pretends he does not know how the mistakes were made. This is the egregious problem for a national leader — dishonesty and irresponsibility.

Moreover, faced with the difficulty of generating support from his own blue camp base, as evidenced in the past legislative by-elections and local elections, the Ma government keeps blaming all the problems on the former DPP government and continues to rely on “Chen-bashing” and “DPP-bashing” to mobilize the KMT’s core supporters.

The timing of the recent indictment of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) for allegedly misusing confidential diplomatic funds during his presidency is certainly suspect, despite Ma’s immediate clarification that he did not interfere in the judicial process. Nevertheless, such a move has no doubt widened partisan and social divisions further and increased political uncertainties for the upcoming elections.

So, if Ma is not qualified to be president, does DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) possess the elements of moderation, reconciliation and action of a great leader?

Tsai unveiled her “Taiwan NEXT” campaign slogan and pledged to put the country back on the right track. Although voters are still waiting to hear a more concrete policy agenda from Tsai, the DPP presidential candidate does project a brand new direction for the country. Tsai seems to portray herself as a political leader who can take the temperature and monitor the pulse of the times in which she lives. With humility and modesty, Tsai does not mute her desire for change or compromise her ideals. Her message is to make sure her style matches the public’s mood.

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