Good appointments, good politics: analysts
By Lin Chieh-yu / STAFF REPORTER
Compared to the pan-blue alliance, which is engaged in an internal struggle over transferring power to a younger generation, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has performed extraordinarily well in putting talented people in appropriate positions for his second term, in accordance with his goal of developing prospective candidates for major electoral races over the next four years.
\nHaving won a second term, Chen is displaying self-confidence and improving upon his formerly closed style of policy-making in order to incorporate power-sharing, factional balance and the cultivation of talent into his new administration.
\nWith Chen's new Cabinet and a network of officials now established in the national security system and in the diplomatic corps, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is establishing a basis from which it could establish itself as the permanent ruling party, said senior DPP Legislator Hung Chi-chang (洪奇昌).
\nCompared to four years ago, when Chen was confronted with a lack of governmental talent within the DPP and had to select a number of figures from outside his party, the new government is now a veritable cornucopia of talent in a wide range of fields -- including people recommended by former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), senior Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) experts, bureaucrats and senior figures from the worlds of business and academia.
\n"When A-bian (阿扁) started out, he really had no standard by which to promote people and, as a result, his Cabinet didn't gel. People found it difficult to work together, causing an unstable personnel situation until the third year of his first term, when he was finally able to judge the mettle of his appointments," Hong said.
\nHong says that following this year's presidential election, Chen has promoted people on the basis of experience, taking into account the esteem in which the appointees are held both within the party and outside it.
\n"Chen no longer needs to rely on outside forces. Those who were promoted before their time have reached maturity and, in his appointments this time around, Chen is looking confidently ahead toward four years -- perhaps even eight years -- of stable government," Hong said.
\nAnother observer says that Chen has done a good job of developing future DPP presidential candidates. The DPP's "four stars" -- Taipei County Commissioner Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), Premier Yu Shyi-kun, Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and Kaoshiung City Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) -- are all plausible choices as presidential candidates in 2008, and all have been advanced by Chen.
\n"Su's appointment as secretary-general of the Presidential Office brings him to the very center of power and policy-making, and this was done in order to develop his experience in running the country. If he is successful as secretary-general, he will be the next premier," said Chen Sung-shan (陳淞山), civil service commissioner and the man who served as director of Chen's legislative office when Chen was a legislator.
\n"In addition, A-bian has taken pains to relinquish some power and give it to Yu, enabling Yu, in the process of reshuffling the Cabinet, to allocate posts in such a way that the Cabinet will become his own base of support. At the same time, in the organization of national security, cross-strait affairs and diplomatic staff, Chen has accepted Lu's favorite candidates, allowing a team to emerge that has been forged by the exercise of mutual trust between the president and vice-president," Chen Sung-shan said.
\nAs for Hsieh -- who is less than halfway through his second term as mayor of Kaohsiung -- Chen cannot yet appoint this political giant to any post. Chen Sung-shan says that Hsieh is regarded as the "possessor of the greatest intellect in the party."
\nChen has therefore appointed DPP Legislator Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰), an emerging star and one very close to Hsieh, as deputy secretary-general of the Presidential Office, which should enable Hsieh to participate in national affairs through his close friend.
\n"Chen has allowed the four eligible presidential candidates to take up battle stations in order to give them every opportunity to compete, as well as to provide an equal balance of power, preventing any one of them from being dominant at the outset and turning Chen Shui-bian into a lame duck president too early on," Chen Song-shan said.
\nRegarding the 2006 Taipei and Kaohsiung mayoral elections, Chen Shui-bian has clearly sought to cultivate Taipei City Legislator Luo Wen-chia (羅文嘉) and Kaohsiung City Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) as candidates, bringing both of them into the Cabinet not only to bolster the government's experience but also to provide the two with political experience.
\n"Luo-Wen-chia's appointment as Chairman of the Hakka Affairs Commission -- and Chen Chi-mai's as Cabinet spokesman and minister without portfolio -- will give each of them a lot of leadership experience, raise their profiles and enable them to promote and train their staff and aides in the best possible way," said political columnist Hu Wen-huei (胡文輝).
\n"They only need to do a good job and they will be the best possible DPP candidates for the 2006 Taipei and Kaohsiung mayoral elections," Hu said
\nThe reshuffling of the Presidential Office's staff also deserves attention. Chen has appointed his most trusted senior aide, Chiou I-jen (邱義仁), to return to the post of secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC) in order to strengthen that department's capacity for "special combat," especially in terms of foreign relations and policy integration, enabling Chen Shui-bian himself to focus more intensively on other priorities.
\nThe president chose close aide Lin Chin-chang (林錦昌), who led the team responsible for the text of Chen's Thursday speech and who coordinates the president's schedule, as a senior adviser at the NSC. Lin will liaise between the president's closest aides and the NSC.
\n"As in the US White House, important presidential speeches and policy must be looked at by the NSC," said an important aide to the president.
\n"Lin should be able to steer the operations of the NSC in the direction of those of its US counterpart," the aide said.
\nAs far as "the political resources" of the Presidential Office are concerned, including posts as national policy advisers and senior adviser to the president, these posts were seen in the past as "serving as a reward for services rendered and as a way to win people over by any means, even in opposition to the party," but the personnel occupying the posts were not actually entrusted with providing advice to the president.
\nHowever, the list of names announced by the president on Thursday includes talented figures from the world of business -- replacing the former captains of industry who contrived to steer Chen towards the pan-blue camp -- as well as a good number of people steeped in knowledge of the Taiwan independence issue.
\nOf 30 senior-adviser posts, 15 receive pay (with salaries along the same lines as those of the presidents of the government's five branches) and 15 serve without pay.
\nOf 90 policy-adviser posts, 30 serve with pay (with salaries equivalent to those of ministers) and 60 serve without pay.
\nEvergreen Group (長榮集團) founder Chang Jung-fa (張榮發), who for two decades has been regarded as Chen Shui-bian's biggest supporter, but who during the campaign hinted at endorsing the pan-blue camp, was not included on the new list of senior advisers to the president.
\nMeanwhile, Wu Li-pei (吳澧培), chairman of the Global A-bian Family (海外扁友會) and a very successful businessman in the US, was invited to take up a post.
\n"Some senior leaders of groups that favor independence, and academic elites with strong Taiwanese awareness, such as Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒), Ng Chiau-tong (黃昭堂), and Ruan Ming (阮銘) -- respectively, a political commentator, a visiting professor at Tamkang University and a former special assistant to late general-secretary of the Chinese Communist Party of China Hu Yaoban (胡耀邦) -- have all been invited to serve as national policy advisers to Chen Shui-bian, displaying not only that Chen appreciates their solid support during the presidential campaign, but also that Chen is still an advocate of Taiwan's independence," Hu said.
\n"At the same time, choosing them is intended to conciliate the pro-independence veterans, to keep them from feeling bitter about the goodwill shown toward China and the backing down from the US in the inauguration speech," Hu said.
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