Tue, Nov 26, 2002 - Page 3 News List

TSU wins big after Chen's gaffe

By Lin Mei-Chun  /  STAFF REPORTER

The TSU appears to be the biggest winner following the Cabinet's about-turn on the reform of debt-laden credit unions.

Political commentators said that former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) had won the hearts of the farmers and fishermen by speaking on their behalf.

But the commentators also pointed out that the DPP's failure and the TSU's triumph will not affect the close link between President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Lee because neither of them can afford to lose each other while fighting the pan-blue camp.

"Collaboration between the TSU and the DPP will continue despite the friction [caused by the government's Nov. 17 decision] because for President Chen, concern for an electoral victory outweighs anything else," said Emile Sheng (盛治仁), a political science professor at Soochow University.

Sheng predicted that the alliance would stay intact at least until the 2004 presidential election.

The Chen-Lee relationship, a subject of much speculation, was explored by the media after the government's abrupt decision to indefinitely suspend the three-tiered risk control measures imposed on the financially-troubled credit departments because the plan had provoked enormous resistance among the farmers and fishermen.

The controversial banking reform sparked massive protests on Saturday, despite the government's move to delay the restrictions, and then triggered a political storm in which a two Cabinet members resigned from their posts.

The political commotion -- considered by many as one of the top three crises for the DPP since it came to power in May 2000 -- hit the party hard.

The public questioned the DPP's ability to govern following its total retreat from reform even though Chen vowed repeatedly to push it through. The blunder also exposed the DPP's flawed decision-making process.

Chen took over the party's chairmanship in July, ushering in an era in which the party and politics were expected to be in line with each other and party leaders would ideally be involved in shaping policy.

But Sheng said it appears that the system makes it even harder for the voice of party officials to be heard because Chen is dominating the party.

David Huang (黃偉峰), a political scientist at Academia Sinica, said that Chen has confused his status as president and his position as party chairman.

Chen should have explained the policy change during the DPP's Central Standing Committee, rather than making the decision at the Presidential Office immediately after his meeting with five county commissioners from the south, Huang said.

"The gaffe reflects that Chen violated the political system by overridding the right of the premier. Besides, it is to his disadvantage to stand on the front line of every decision," Huang said.

"The president should act more and talk less because the rule of thumb is that a person good at speaking is definitely not good at action."

However, one observer said that the TSU gained credibility because the former president spelled out the farmers' and fishermen's complaints, forcing the government to drop the reform.

In September, Lee incited public anger by criticizing the reform proposals, saying it was the laymen who mapped out the scheme, which he said would "wipe out" the credit unions of farmers and fishermen, thus reducing the availability of loans.

Amid the governmental disarray in its decision-making, Lee intensified the public's dissatisfaction with the DPP after he attacked the administration by saying it was run by "inexperienced officials" who know nothing but how to run election campaigns.

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