Chang in spotlight since Chen talk
By Lin Chieh-yu / STAFF REPORTER
President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has recently raised the issue of finding a suitable candidate to lead the Control Yuan. This question has brought Chang Po-ya (張博雅) back into the spotlight.
\nA former interior minister and current legislative Non-Partisan Liberty Union leader, Chang is the scion of a south Taiwan political family who has close ties to the democracy movement. She has maintained a position of independence, "without party and without faction," which has earned her considerable respect from both major parties.
\nAt the same time, her unwillingness to be affiliated with a political party has seen her gradually pushed from the public stage, and she has become marginalized. According to some political observers, Chen is unlikely to raise her to high office, especially as she currently has the backing of the People First Party (PFP).
\nChang was born in 1942 in Chiayi City and worked as a doctor after graduating in medicine and health care from Kyorin University in Japan.
\nIn 1982, her mother, Hsu Shih-hsian (許世賢), Chiayi's mayor, passed away. Chang returned home to run in the mayoral elections that followed and was elected with a comfortable majority, and was subsequently re-elected. In 1989, Chang was elected to the legislature by a large margin. The following year, on the recommendation of former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), Premier Hau Po-chun (郝柏村) brought her into the Cabinet as Minister of Health. In 1997, she resigned from the ministry and returned to Chiayi, where she was again elected mayor.
\nIn 2000, Chen appointed Chang to head the interior ministry and serve as Taiwan Provincial Government chairwoman. Two years later, Chen sought to appoint her as deputy head of the Examination Yuan, but the appointment was not approved by the legislature. At the end of that year, with PFP support, Chang ran for Kaohsiung mayor, but failed to win much voter support.
\nAfter a period of time out of the political limelight, Chang established a new platform. She realized that voters had turned against the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), but at the same time she had little confidence in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), so she formed a new group of 10 independent legislators called the Non-Partisan Liberty Union, serving as chairwoman of the preparatory committee.
\n"Although Chang has been active in establishing her own influence, the main problem is that she does not have any substantial political track record of achievements. Shifting her ground between the political parties also made voters doubt her political sincerity," said Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒), editor-in-chief of Contemporary magazine.
\n"Her early political influence is a heritage which she got from her mother. People in Chiayi gave Chang support for her mother's sake," Chin said.
\nChang's mother had over 30 years of experience in Chiayi administration. She was often called Chiayi's "Matsu" -- the goddess of the sea -- and she worked with her physician husband, Chang Chin-tung (張進通), often treating the poor for free and donating generously to the tangwai (黨外) movement against the authoritarian KMT regime. Hsu had a reputation of incorruptibility as mayor, and even today is remembered by the older generation of Chiayi residents.
\n"The emotion with which people still regard Hsu goes back to her days as a medical practitioner. Even when she was pregnant she insisted that she treat a child with malaria, and catching the infection she lost the child as a result," said political columnist Hu Wen-huei (胡文輝).
\nChang continued her mother's independent philosophy, never becoming a diehard member of any political party and relying on her own efforts. In the 2000 presidential elections, Chang became much sought-after by presidential candidates, including the PFP's James Soong (宋楚瑜), who had left the KMT and at that time also had no party affiliation. Soong sought her as a possible vice presidential candidate.
\nWhen Chen came out with his "people's government" slogan, he asked Chang to take over the interior ministry, one of the most important Cabinet posts. Her experience in local government, her reputation and her status as a non-partisan female legislator allowed her to make the shift to the central government without difficulty. Unfortunately, her independent attitude caused a split with the Chen administration, whose first priority was to establish a record of achievements.
\nWhen Chang took over the ministry, she publicly said that "President Chen's election platform might not be realized." After that, the interior ministry became the focus of various controversies in which Chang blamed Chen, and in various senior staffing decisions she was unable to agree with the Cabinet. She also seemed to do little to deliver the social welfare programs that the president had promised during his campaign.
\n"As a result, the DPP administration began to doubt Chang's capacity, believing that she was trying to be a celebrity within the party, fulfilling her own ambitions but pushing responsibility for failures onto others," said Hung Chih-chang (洪奇昌), a DPP legislator.
\nAlthough Chen was dissatisfied with Chang, he continued to treat her with respect, even nominating her for the Examination Yuan deputy head in 2002. Unexpectedly, Chang refused to face an election with the DPP nominee for Examination Yuan chief, Yao Chia-wen (姚嘉文), instead seeking support from legislators. She turned to the opposition, rejecting legislators of the ruling party.
\n"The opposition had announced that it wanted Yao Chia-wen to suffer a humiliating defeat, so Chang was unwilling to be on the same ticket in case her own prospects were compromised. This caused the DPP to have a sense of impending crisis, and her reputation among all parties was compromised as well," Chin said.
\nThe result of the vote was that Yao scraped through, and it was Chang who failed to be nominated. Instead of reviewing her own actions, Chang began to criticize the pan-green alliance, suggesting that the president had betrayed her. Her split with the DPP followed soon after.
\nAfter leaving the Chen administration, Chang ran for Kaohsiung mayor. But Kaohsiung is not Chiayi and her family reputation was not such a potent force, so it was no surprise when Chang failed in her election bid. Then locals began to think Chang would return to Chiayi to campaign for election. This time the PFP said it would support Chang in a bid for the chief of the Control Yuan, but its purpose was disruptive, aiming largely to oppose the government's nomination, and also offering a favor to Chang.
\nThe real question is whether Chang will return to campaign in Chiayi during the year-end legislative election.
\n"The current situation is that the incumbent mayor, Chen Li-chen (陳麗貞), is doing very well in her job and the DPP is also fostering its own talent in this area. Chang is now regarded with suspicion by both of the major parties, and if she thinks she can rely on her mother's legacy once again, she has another thing coming," said Hu.
Chang Po-ya's long political career started when she ran for the Chiayi mayorship her mother had held before her.
PHOTO: LIBERTY TIMES
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