Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members see the chairperson election as the first step in revitalizing the party. However, judging by the policies proposed by the three candidates, the situation is really worrisome.
Of the three, Legislator Chai Trong-rong's (
Next, since one of the causes of the DPP's election defeat was the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp scandal involving high-level officials, all three candidates have made rooting out corruption a priority. In fact, former Changhua County commissioner Wong Chin-chu's (
It is odd that all three candidates have placed so much emphasis on corruption, as there was not much wrong with the character and record of the candidates who performed so badly in the recent local government elections. On the other hand, many of the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) candidates were accused of having taken out excessive loans, having defaulted on loan repayments or simply being corrupt. As a whole, the DPP is still in relatively good shape. The real problem lies with the party's leaders.
However, these leaders are now aware that even the walls have ears and the judicial system is eyeing them without sympathy. Thus, they will have to conduct themselves with circumspection in the next few years.
For the past six years, Chen has favored a leadership style that emphasized closed-door decision-making and repeated policy changes. He has been short-sighted and willful and lacks an overall strategy. No wonder the administration has been frequently embarrassed.
Today, his authority has declined significantly, but his methods remain the same. As a result, more embarrassments are to be expected. But neither Chai nor Wong have focused on this weakness, as their campaigns have emphasized either ideological coloring or personal integrity. Although former Presidential Office secretary-general Yu Shyi-kun has addressed the issue, he cannot do so from a position of strength because of his close relationship with Chen.
Of the three, Wong probably has the greatest integrity, but she is running for the post on the strength of support from former chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄), a "moral absolutist." This is also a cause for concern, because an absolutist is often arbitrary and merciless. Basically, Chen is also an absolutist. But he is an absolutist of power, not morality. In the past six years, the nation's political situation often languished in a state of unresolved confrontation as a result. Essentially, political decisions are choices made on the basis of values and interests, and there should be room for rational discussion. But if we see such choices as the battle between absolute good and absolute evil, the room for democracy is drastically reduced. The rash constitutional amendment that halved the legislature serves as an example.
Political ethics should be "ethics of responsibility," as proposed by Max Weber, on the basis of knowledge and certain consequences. This is different from the pursuit of power or Weber's "ethics of intention" in which only motive, and not responsibility, is considered. In other words, any political doctrine based on ethics of intention and absolutism of power are against the spirit of the ethics of responsibility.
Also, support for Wong's policy of separating the DPP and the administration is clearly a counterbalance to Chen's manipulation of the party. Indeed, Chen has wielded excessive power over the party. But if they are separated, the party will become "soft," in the manner of political parties in the US system. In that case, while the president may not be able to manipulate party members as effectively, the party would also be less able to participate in or attack the president's decisions, for this would be a violation of the principle that power and responsibility should be equally balanced. This is an issue on which Wong needs to giver further clarification.
As for Yu, who is most vocal about relations between the DPP and the administration, he suggests that rational relationships be built, calling for joint consultation and collective decisions, so as to define the party's status and its ideals. He also suggests that the party strengthen its policy committee and propose policies while setting a political agenda. At first glance, this approach answers my call for Chen to reform. However, this is completely contradictory to the logic of Chen's exercise of power and is a deviation from Yu's previous position. Therefore, Yu has the duty to answer the following questions for party members:
First, will Chen support his policy? If not, conflicts will inevitably occur between the new chairperson and the president. How will Yu handle this problem? Also, in light of his close relationship with the president, is the policy merely a ruse Yu has adopted in order to win the election?
The DPP is very emotional at present due to the setbacks the party suffered in the local elections, and the call for leaders to take responsibility has grown louder. Chen himself must certainly shoulder the most responsibility for the defeat. However, it would be a disaster if the party is overrun by anti-Chen sentiment and loses its ability to encourage rational discussion. Therefore, I suggest that the three candidates for chairperson engage each other in debate.
To sum up, if Yu sticks to his campaign promise, there is likely to be serious conflict between the president and the new chairman, regardless of who fills the latter position.
Lin Cho-shui is a Democratic Progressive Party legislator.
TRANSLATED BY EDDY CHANG
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