Mon, Mar 11, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Lawmaker pitches party reform plan

Nearly two years after taking power, the DPP is still struggling to adjust to its role as the ruling party. To help preserve political stability, the party has been forced to give up several long-cherished goals, among them the fight to scrap Taiwan's nuclear power plants. Recently, an increasing number of party members have questioned the wisdom of restraint and suggested the need for reform. Senior DPP lawmaker Shen Fu-hsiung, dubbed the brain of the party's legislative caucus, has drawn up a reform plan in the hope of restoring the party's morale and dynamism. Shen shared details of his plan to reinvigorate the DPP during a recent interview with `Taipei Times' staff reporter Crystal Hsu

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Senior DPP lawmaker Shen Fu-hsiung gestures during a recent interview with the Taipei Times.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Taipei Times: Is the DPP in need of reform?

Shen Fu-hsiung (沈富雄): The DPP has grown to such an extent that it must transform or it cannot function effectively. As seen over the past two years, the party's headquarters and its legislative caucus did not communicate well with the Presidential Office or the Cabinet.

Though differing on how to reform the party, most members share the need to internalize it. By internalization, we mean that the party should revolve around its legislative caucus. This planned change is consistent with the spirit of democracy, as lawmakers won their office through popular elections. Internalization is inevitable for parties that wield substantial influence in the legislature.

In Britain, for example, the prime minister is also the leader of the party in power. Opposition parties with sizable seats, such as the KMT and the PFP, need internalizing even more, as the legislature is the only stage on which they can carry out their platform. Disagreements arise when the party's leaders are not also members of its caucus, which is the case with the DPP. And the transfer of power has only served to compound the problem.

TT: What would you suggest the party do to internalize?

Shen: To achieve that, it is important that the party's top posts be filled by its lawmakers. If this cannot be done, the two groups should at least work at the same office building to enhance bilateral communication. President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) agrees with me on this point.

It is odd for the party to keep departments of international affairs and China affairs when it is in power. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Mainland Affairs Council will carry out the president's policy plans.

Also, I suggest the Central Standing Committee meet every two months rather than every week. The committee should act as a board of directors and empower managers (party executives and caucus leaders) to run the party's day-to-day business.

If the president agrees to concurrently serve as the party's chairman, some have suggested giving him the right to appoint members to the committee so he may have a decisive say during its meetings. The committee may then replace the nine-member policy-making task force. President Chen is receptive to the idea and suggested expanding the committee to include Cabinet officials and local DPP administrators.

I find this arrangement problematic. The larger a panel, the more difficult it will be to reach a consensus. You cannot expand the committee while seeking to suppress divergent views. Personally, I find it ill-conceived to invite Cabinet officials or local administrators to attend the Central Standing Committee forums. Many Cabinet officials are not DPP members and will not necessarily endorse the party's policy stands.

Local administrators, on the other hand, assign more weight to their constituencies than to the party's smooth running. For instance, Kaohsiung City and Taipei County may disagree over how to divide budget-allocation funds. It is better for the party to stay above provincial disputes when weighing national affairs.

Meeting less frequently, the committee will be deprived of its importance, and President Chen may find it less controversial to head the party.

TT: How can the party and caucus better communicate with the Cabinet and the Presidential Office?

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