Former Democratic Progressive Party chairman Su Tseng-cheng agreed to "shoulder the burden" of becoming the fifth premier in the DPP administration of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and vowed not to "disappoint" the president and the people of Taiwan.
Chen officially appointed Su to replace outgoing Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), who announced Tuesday his decision to resign on January 23 with his Cabinet team.
After Chen announced the appointment in a lengthy address, Su stated that "I am willing to shoulder this heavy burden and face all challenges so as not to disappoint the expectations of the president and our citizens."
The premier-designate urged all Taiwan citizens to work with him to make Taiwan even better.
With Su at his side, Chen made the long-awaited announcement in the auditorium of the Office of the President at a ceremony attended only by President Chen and Su, along with a handful of presidential staffers. Premier Frank Hsieh, who was on an inspection tour of flood control projects near Taoyuan County's Shihmen Reservoir did not attend.
After keeping a low profile for the past month, Su finally confirmed that he would become premier yesterday morning after visiting his ailing mother at National Taiwan University Hospital.
"I reported to my mother that I would become premier," said Su, who expressed the hope that "my mother can leave the hospital and see how progressive Taiwan is becoming."
The date for the transfer of the seal of the premier of the Executive Yuan has not yet been formally announced, but is expected to take place next Wednesday.
In a lengthy statement to announce the appointment, Chen lavished praise on Hsieh, who he lauded for succeeding in maintaining Taiwan's economic competitiveness and overcoming difficult opposition to realize major social reforms, including the introduction of a new labor pension system, a new minimum income tax and the rationalization of pensions for civil servants and teachers.
"Regarding the difficulties faced by Premier Hsieh, no one is more clear than I," said Chen, who declared that "the achievements of the Hsieh Cabinet deserve our highest affirmation."
Chen also slammed the conservative opposition "pan-blue" alliance of Koumintang and the People First Party for rejecting Hsieh's "soft and modest posture" and call for "detente and coexistence."
Instead, Chen acknowledged that the deadlock between the DPP administration and the KMT-PFP controlled Legislative Yuan had worsened in the wake of the growing tilt of the pan-blue camp toward China, the assumption of new KMT chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and the results of the December 3 local elections so that "the government has almost no room to stretch out."
Chen also slammed the opposition legislative majority for the unprecedented slashing of the 2006 central government budget, saying that the opposition parties had left "no room whatsoever for consultations and had entirely used barbaric force to counter" the DPP government.
Opposition lawmakers slashed NT$36.43 billion, or 2.3 percent, from the proposed central government budget for 2006 and froze more than NT$240 billion in funds for the Executive, Examination and Judicial branches.
He said that the result "will absolutely have a major impact on national development, the people's welfare and the normal operations of the government" and added that legal experts were concerned that several resolutions approved by the conservative opposition "infringed on the powers of the Executive and Examination branches and were even unconstitutional and invalid."
Referring to Hsieh's announcement last Thursday that the Executive Yuan would ask the president to approve an unprecedented formal motion of "reconsideration" or a veto of the budget, Chen acknowledged that the governing camp had considered whether to ask
New premier vows not to disappoint Taiwan's people
for a reconsideration.
Such a motion, which would require presidential approval, could be difficult to sustain since it could be overridden by a simple majority of lawmakers.
Chen pointed out that the government had to keep in mind what the chances of a successful appeal would be and whether anything would be gained by subjecting the government to even more attrition and even worsening the political deadlock due to an even fiercer confrontation.
He said that both he and the premier "fully understood these complex variables" and "had a deep exchange of views" which was followed by Hsieh's "responsible decision" to resign, apparently to take political responsibility for calling for such a motion.
Lauding Su as an "outstanding DPP comrade," Chen said the new premier had accumulated rich administrative from the southern to the northern tip of Taiwan and gained vibrant popularity as Taiwan's "electric light bulb."
Chen also emphasized that his confidence in Su was founded on the fact that the premier-designate had passed "the most rigorous tests" of "patience and vitality," "experience and wisdom" and "character and integrity."
Citing the management principles of "total quality management," Chen said that "the people are our customers and administrative action is our product," said Chen, who stated that "to gain the support and trust of the people, we must concretely upgrade our product, process, environment and management quality."
Stressing that "the people expect the governing team to meet the highest standards," Chen announced that all members of the new Cabinet and all political appointees will be required to place their assets in trust "to manifest public credibility and use action to uphold the self-discipline and integrity of the Cabinet team and stem untruthful doubts or malicious slander."
Evidently responding to the call by DPP Chairman-elect Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃) for "collective decision-making and party-government joint consultation," he also stated that there should be a "consultative division of labor and collective responsibility" between the presidency, the Executive Yuan, the DPP legislative caucus and the DPP.
"The premier is not the chief-of-staff of the president and the party is absolutely not the rubber stamp of the Executive branch," Chen emphasized.
"I personally support the holding of an debate on the governing party's internal policies and political line in order to bring together the wisdom of the entire party and meld consensus," said Chen, who added that "only if the political line is clear, our stance is firm and we are united as one will we be able to win the support of more of the people."
Do not think about 2008
The president stressed that the transfer of the burden of premiership from one DPP leader to another was not a matter of "who was stepping up or who was stepping down" or "who is contesting with whom" and was "even less about" the issue of who should be the DPP's candidate in the March 2008 presidential election.
Instead, he said that the matter was of completing different phases of "responsibility and mission" and stressed that everyone "had to be responsible to history and to the people."
Chen reaffirmed that the power to appoint a premier was a prerogative of the president under the Constitution and stressed that "it is very clear" that "the governing party's candidate in the next presidential election must be produced based on the party's democratic mechanism."
He said that only if a premier "whose heart did not have an obsession with '2008' can focus his time and energy and do a good job" and only then could the DPP also create a better and more beautiful future for Taiwan.