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Ma's Achilles' Heels

Ma's Achilles' Heels

The recent political upheavals, which originated in the latest of the recurrent drives by the pan-Kuomintang opposition to "depose" President Chen Shui-bian, have shown the need for democratic deepening, more sound legal institutionalization, self-restraint and mutual respect in our emerging democratic country.
Frustrated with years of political paralysis, economic stagnation and political decay and ingrained corruption, Taiwanese voters are naturally yearning for clean, consistent and capable leadership.
In the face of Taiwan's fast-changing politics, leadership is a dynamic tension between where a politician or a political party believes the country must go and where voters want it to go.
An idealistic leader will not hesitate to do something that is unpopular in the short term, but a smart idealist will carefully measure public opinion in advance and will develop a strategy to persuade the electorate and opinion leaders.
Regretfully, none of Taiwan's potential national leaders have developed the proper combination of decent integrity, consistent and cohesive political philosophy and steadfast action that fits the public needs.
For those leaders who have their eyes on the upcoming March 2008 presidential election, President Chen's experience offers a political textbook full of positive and negative lessons.
But should a potential candidate aim to uphold strict "moral standards" to accuse President Chen and his family and close aides of abuses of power or even corruption or other grave misconduct, he or she should also first apply even stricter criteria for self-judgment and self-reflection.
Among the potential contenders, Taipei City Mayor and former Kuomintang Chairman Ma Ying-jeou has long been the darling of the mainstream media and, largely thanks to their assistance, become Taiwan's most popular political star.
Nevertheless, now that Ma has stepped into the realm of real politics, his sugar-covered image is eroding and may even be on the brink of collapse. Indecisiveness in decision-making, a failure in executing internal discipline, excessive use of double-standards for political maneuvering as well as an evident predilection for opportunism constitute Ma's political Achilles Heels.
Ma's flip-flops over whether or not to endorse the campaign launched by the People First Party for a recall against President Chen or a no-confidence vote against Premier Su Tseng-chang in early June exposed the KMT chairman's lack of integrity, revealed his abandonment of legal principle and demonstrated his strategic indecisiveness.
Bringing up the rear
The KMT chairman's latest effort to ignite a second recall move against President Chen is also a very belated response to the "Depose Chen" campaign initiated by former Democratic Progressive Party chairman Shih Ming-teh.
Ma's parallel push for a national referendum on whether Chen should stay in office reflects a newfound embrace of "populism" that violates the principle of legal bills dealing with general issues and not individuals and conflicts with the principle of due process as Chen has not been implicated of gross misuse of powers by any judicial investigation.
On the other hand, Ma has also demonstrated a no less opportunistic caution that has caused him to often miss chances to take positive initiatives. As the lame-duck mayor of our capital city, most Taipei City citizens are not overly impressed with his administrative performance. Although lower than recorded by Chen Shui-bian during his time as mayor from 1994-1998, Ma's relatively high approval rate lies in his personal image, rather than affirmation of the efficiency of his team.
In an ironic twist given his vocal calls for Chen to be held accountable to "the highest moral standard," Ma has presided over a noticeable decline of internal discipline of the city government, the most recent of which was the resignation of Research and Examination Department Director Chou Wen-tsai due to abuse of her office.
When Ma points his finger at others, he sometimes fails to see that other fingers are pointing at himself.
Moreover, Ma's recurrent use of double-standards to judge others has eroded tendency to incorporate a double standard to judge others has eroded his potential for becoming a national leader.
When former Taitung County commissioner Wu Chun-li removed from office due to conviction on bribery charges and his "divorced" wife Kuang Li-chen represented him to run for the subsequent by-election for the same post, Ma declared that Wu's spouse "should not bear the crime of her husband."
But when first lady Wu Shu-jen was alleged to have received vouchers from the SOGO Department Store and her son-in-law was charged with insides trading, Ma insisted that President Chen was "morally" responsible and should resign regardless of whether he was directly implicated in any wrongdoing.
When incumbent KMT Keelung Mayor Hsu Tsai-li, whom Ma endorsed as a "brother" in the run-up to last December's mayoral elections, was found guilty and sentenced to a seven year prison term for profiteering Thursday, the KMT chairman's initial response was a tepid expression of "regret" to Keelung City citizens and an appeal for Hsu to resign voluntarily the following day.
Indeed, Ma has yet to offer a convincing explanation of his controversial spending of his own mayoral special funds for private use.
Ma's upholding of a double-standard that is "harsh to his enemy and soft to his own men" opens room for doubts on his own qualifications as national leader and how effectively he would deal with corruption in a restored KMT rule.
The decision by Ma's Taipei City Government to set a damaging precedent by allowing Shih's campaign to engage in an indefinite 24-hour assembly in contrast to the 10 pm restriction customarily imposed on all other assemblies also displayed a gross and blatant political double-standard.
When Ma urged the public to hold a national referendum to force President Chen to step down, he needed to remind himself that he has been walking down the very same path since the KMT chairman is also overlooking the implications of the growing civil consciousness on the performance of the political leader.
Our public will require that future national leaders fulfills commitments, display policy consistency and remain strictly honest to the people and put national interests above individual or partisan gain.
What our citizens want not is decisiveness, responsibility and clean politics, not complacency, opportunism and double-standards.


Updated : 2021-10-26 18:57 GMT+08:00