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Last chance for the DPP

Last chance for the DPP

With only a year left in his second and last four year term, President Chen Shui-bian appointed Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman and former Premier Chang Chun-hsiung as his sixth premier in just seven years last Monday.
After a week of speculation and finally relatively minor changes, Chang, Vice Premier Chiou I-jen and the rest of his Democratic Progressive Party Cabinet will take office today from the hands of outgoing Premier Su Tseng-chang with the mission of paving the path for the DPP's victory in next year's presidential elections.
On the surface, the reshuffle is widely seen as Chen's last attempt to realize his campaign promises and establish his political legacy as well as hopefully pave the way for DPP presidential nominee Frank Hsieh to win the upcoming presidential poll and continue DPP governance.
However, under the surface, Su's departure and Chang's appointment was primarily a compromise stemming from Hsieh's surprising victory in the DPP presidential primary, which put Su in an awkward political position in the wake of their bitter rivalry in the primary campaign.
If Su remained as premier, he would face a dilemma between his personal feelings as a defeated candidate and his duty as a senior DPP politician in a complex situation in which Chen, who clearly preferred Su, is trying hard to remain politically relevant even though Hsieh, as the DPP nominee and potential future president, may naturally be formulating his own campaign agenda. In this regard, Su's resignation, whether it was voluntary or not, was understandable, even if not very statesmanlike.
Nevertheless, it is also possible that Chen would still entertain hopes that Su could become Hsieh's running-mate. From this standpoint, reappointing Chang as the new premier would not mean much more besides showing a strong will to establish a campaign team.
Nevertheless, it is unfortunate that the DPP government under Chen has engaged in so many Cabinet reshuffles in the past seven years, a phenomenon that has considerably impeded the DPP administration's ability to develop a solid executive team and provide consistent and professional as well as progressive policy directions and realize effective implementation.
Faced with the accomplished fact of a new change in the final year of Chen's second and last term, we sincerely hope that Chang will be the last premier before May 2008 and that his Cabinet can display the different and more effective style of leadership than we have seen in the past.
In his speech to nominate Chang, Chen offered five guidelines: to uphold Taiwan centric concepts and realize social equity and justice; ensure that environmental protection and economic development are stressed in tandem; continue to purge old ills and engage in new reforms; bolster measures for the benefit of central and southern Taiwan, middle and lower classes and medium and small enterprises; and modestly govern and unite Taiwan.
Citing Chang's background as SEF chairman, Chen also hinted that the new Cabinet will make more efforts to push forward cross-strait exchanges such as realizing further liberalization of visits by tourists from the People's Republic of China and the proposed methods to expedite cross-strait cargo non-stop flights.
'Replacing confrontation with cooperation'
Speaking yesterday to the first unofficial gathering of his incoming Cabinet, Chang himself stressed the need for the new Cabinet and the Legislative Yuan, which remains under the control of the opposition pan-KMT, to "replace confrontation with cooperation" and secure passage of the long-delayed NT$1.6 trillion central government budget and numerous other measures beneficial to Taiwan's people.
Nevertheless, Chen and the DPP are also determined to promote policies and moves related to transitional justice to restore the history of the KMT dictatorship and demystify the KMT's personality cult around the late President Chiang Kai-shek, "rectify" names of state agencies and continue a petition campaign for a referendum on KMT assets.
These efforts will undoubtedly meet with resistance from the KMT camp, which stubbornly refuses to abandon its anti-democratic idols and icons, and will thus make it difficult to avoid continued "confrontation."
Whether Chang will be more astute than Chen or preceding premiers in correctly judging when to run up the flag of "purging evils and engaging in reform" and when to engage in "reconciliation and coexistence" remains to be seen.
After all, Hsieh's own departure from the premiership just over two years ago was triggered by the inability of his moderate "reconciliation and cooperation" style to overcome the above dilemma.
As DPP presidential nominee, Hsieh continues to advocate "reconciliation and coexistence" in domestic politics and, with qualifications, cross-strait relations with the PRC.
One of Chang's severest challenges will therefore lie in coordinating between the aggressive drive of the DPP headquarters for "transitional justice" and the moderate approach of the party's official presidential nominee without sinking the DPP's re-election hopes.
The DPP should realize that Hsieh's victory in the primary reflects the exhaustion and frustration of all citizens with seven years of unremitting partisan deadlock as well as with the tendency of the DPP government toward political decay and the open reversal of superficial "anti-corruption" reforms by the KMT.
Hence, what the public wants most in the next national leader is responsibility and accountability without abandoning principle and a capability to bridge partisan differences, unite the nation and resume progress.
Even though the pan-KMT legislative majority will not give Chang an easy ride, it is imperative for the new Cabinet to generate new momentum and a working climate with the pan-KMT-dominated legislature and echo the public call to set aside partisan disputes for the sake of the long-term public interest.
If Hsieh, Su and other senior DPP leaders can overcome their differences and show sincerity and goodwill to realize "reconciliation and cooperation" as a team for the presidential campaign, the obsessive use by the pan-KMT camp of its legislative majority to sabotage everything positive the DPP government submits will ultimately backfire at the polls.
The new Chang Cabinet will be the last chance for the DPP to convince voters that it will be action-determined, clean, capable of improving the government's overall performance and able to revive public confidence in continuing reform through effective policy implementation.


Updated : 2021-10-19 06:49 GMT+08:00