Wed, Apr 07, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Yu's departure shows Chen's resolve

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of the Interior Yu Cheng-hsien gestures at a press conference.

TAIPEI TIMES FILE PHOTO

When Minister of the Interior Yu Cheng-hsien (余政憲), who is considered to have close ties with the family of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), became the first victim of the Cabinet reshuffle, observers took this as proof that Chen was exerting his own will in a bid to banish the impression that the reformist agenda of private individuals prevails in his administration.

It was also taken as a sign that Chen's second presidential term will have a completely new political approach.

The 46 year-old Yu is the head of the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) largest political family, the Yu family of Kaohsiung County. In 1984, when he was elected to the Legislative Yuan at the age of 27, he became the country's youngest legislator ever. In February 2002, at the age of 44, he became Taiwan's youngest ever minister of the interior.

When Yu became a legislator, Chen was still in prison and Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍), carrying on her husband's work in his absence, had also just been elected as a legislator for the first time.

Still a political novice at the time, Yu would push Wu into the legislature's meeting chamber in her wheelchair and handle all her daily needs, including buying make-up and arranging her hair, as though she were a member of his own family.

"Yu Cheng-hsien established a deep friendship with Wu Shu-chen, at the same time making Yu's family an important source of political support for Chen Shui-bian. For that reason, after the 2000 presidential election, Yu was considered a member of Chen's faction and his political star was destined to rise," said senior political columnist Hu Wen-huei (胡文輝).

But Yu was not meticulous enough and lacked a political fighting spirit, causing him to slip up continually during his two years in office and become a constant target for attacks on Chen's administration.

These included his being given an illegal massage by a sighted person, using a military vessel to take journalists to the Nansha islands to erect a flag and, during last year's by-election for Hualien County Commissioner, commissioning roadblocks to monitor vote-buying, incurring the angry opposition of the local county government.

"Yu Cheng-hsien is basically still a local political personality, lacking perspectives on the wider political picture. In particular, he has never articulated a national political vision. He is fastidious about getting on with people and is a genial fellow, but he is not a policy maker," Hu said.

"President Chen is clearly conducting this personnel change to signal to the Ministry of the Interior and the National Police Administration that he is punishing them for the attempt on his life on March 19. This will have no impact on changes at other ministries," an anonymous source in the Presidential Office said.

"Chen's immediate tapping of Pingtung County Commissioner Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) to succeed Yu is intended to continue the tradition of appointing outstanding local government chiefs to the ministry of the interior.

But it is also a means of showing appreciation to the southern supporters for their support of Chen's re-election bid," the source added.

Although Yu's resignation demonstrates Chen's resolve that his second term should have a new vitality, it also exposes the power struggle that is bubbling beneath the surface within the DPP.

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