Monday, April 16, 2007

Campaign Rhetoric vs. Electioneering Reality

Campaign Rhetoric vs. Electioneering Reality
China Times editorial
translated by Bevin Chu
April 16, 2007

The "Four Princes of the DPP" (actually One Princess and Three Princes) From left to right: Annette Lu, Frank Hsieh, Yu Hsi-kuen, Su Tseng-chang

During the first televised debate of the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) presidential primaries, one vice-president and three erstwhile prime ministers appeared on the same stage. They offered little in the way of beef, but plenty in the way of position papers, every one of which was referred to as "incontrovertible," and every one of which emphasized that "The previous (or following) administration is to blame, not me." Every one of the DPP's Green Princes is thoroughly versed in the language of elections, but is also afflicted with selective amnesia regarding the rosy scenarios they painted during previous campaigns. These position papers, which they dug out of their archives, reveal a superficial electioneering style that cares only about short term election advantage. The DPP's Green Princes don't engage in debate willingly. But when they do, the fact that they themselves were responsible for endless delays in the implementation of DPP policy becomes clear.

Take the Suhua Freeway for example, which the three erstwhile prime ministers got red in the face arguing over. This freeway project was begun while the Kuomintang (KMT) was in power. During the seven years the DPP has been in power, it has been stopped and restarted repeatedly, based exclusively on political considerations. Like the outer island Kinmen Bridge, which is essentially a "pontoon bridge" hastily assembled just before elections and hastily disassembled afterwards, the Suhua Freeway has become a "virtual freeway," a sacrificial offering in the service of central and local level elections.

Su Tseng-chang, Frank Hsieh, and Yu Hsi-kuen ("Su Hsieh Yu") have argued over who blocked construction of the Suhua Freeway. Who was responsible? Actually the question is meanless. During the 2000 presidential election, the Suhua Freeway was a plank in Chen Shui-bian's campaign platform. Subsequent DPP prime ministers all endorsed Chen Shui-bian's proposal. The first was Chang Chun-hsiung, in October 2000. He emphasized that this was A Bian's political proposal and that the government would see it through, and even "fast track" it. Toward the end of the same month, Chen Shui-bian said that the government would not give up on the Suhua Freeway. Yeh Chu-lan recently proposed that the DPP return to its core values. In November 2001, Yeh, then Minister of Transportation, said "The Suhua Freeway must be built." Sure enough, the core values of the minister and the ordinary citizen are remarkably divergent, and the divergence remarkably ironic.

The irony does not end here. During his term as premier, Yu Hsi-kuen completed the budget and even acquired the easement through eminent domain. Yet key members of his staff stressed that Yu Hsi-kuen's actual policy was "foot-dragging." On the one hand he demanded environmental impact studies. On the other hand, he proposed a "Master Plan for the Development of the Eastern Region and National Lands." Yu Hsi-kuen and his staff have probably forgotten that it was Yu himself who visited Hualian in person, thumped his chest, and promised that "The president's campaign pledges will be fulfilled." The time was 2003, and the Special Election for Hualian County Magistrate had reached a fever pitch. Campaign pledges were hardly limited to the Suhua Freeway. Yu Hsi-kuen's transportation fund pledges to Huanlien and Taidong amounted to 150 billion NT. Only Vice-president Annette Lu tapped the brakes, saying "Haste makes waste."

Yu Hsi-kuen adopted a footdragging policy regarding the Suhua Freeway, not based on environmental considerations, but because DPP nominee You Ying-lung lost the election. In fact, out of concern for the following year's presidential election, the Yu cabinet's "New Ten Major Construction Projects" omitted the Suhua Freeway. When skeptical lawmakers question Yu's commitment, Yu Hsi-kuen reiterated that "The government's policy is that it must build the Suhua Freeway." That the list of "New Ten Major Construction Projects" did not include the Suhua Freeway is laughable. Yet during the 2004 Presidential Election, Chen Shui-bian assured Hualian that he would build the Suhua Freeway.

For the ruling DPP, these major infrastructure projects involving hundreds of billions of NT Dollars are paper projects. One moment they are used to deceive the public. The next moment they are be canceled with a single stroke of the pen. To build or not to build? Whether they add one's votes is always the consideration. But for the local population, these rubber checks may well determine their community's continued prosperity and even an individual's continued livelihood.

For the people of Hualian, the Suhua Freeway is psychological torture. It is impossible to know whether it is going to be built or not. Fortunately the project is still in its planning stage. Not going forward amounts to maintaining the status quo. The people of Taichung are not so fortunate. Chen Shui-bian has only to make a casual promise to build an international airport in central Taiwan and before you know it, he has killed the once-thriving Shuinan Airport. Meanwhile, because international air routes are limited, and cross-Straits routes have yet to be developed, the Chingchuangkang Airport has become a derelict facility. Don't even mention the Pingtung "International" Airport which has been unable to attract any air routes at all. Recently the Su cabinet provoked a dispute over the legalization of auto racing and horse racing. One word from the central government, and local governments were climbing all over each other. They even had their building sites picked out. Another word from the Su cabinet was all it took for their plans to "go south." Proposals that central government agencies be transferred to southern Taiwan or Taipei County almost provoked Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu to conduct a "Northern Expedition." Taipei County Magistrate Chou Hsi-wei was equally furious. Were the six or seven talks between the Taipei County Government and the central government nothing more than a joke?

The DPP vociferously champions "the primacy of the nation" and "the primacy of Taiwan." Yet no one from the president to the erstwhile prime ministers, the DPP's "Green Princes," has the first clue how to develop the nation's resources. Their position papers entranced. Their shouted slogans resonated. Chang Chun-hsiung cited his "8100 Public Construction and Investment Projects." Yu Hsi-kuen cited his "Challenge 2008 National Development Plan," "Two Trillion, Twin Stars" plan, "Tourism Doubling" plan, "Five Year Five Hundred Billion" plan and "New Ten Major Construction Projects" plan. Frank Hsieh cited his "Reconciliation and Coexistence" plan, and his off budget "Navigate the East" plan. Su Tseng-chang was no slacker, with his "Great Investments, Great Warmth" plan. Preceding every slogan was an election. Beside every slogan was a propaganda video. Behind every slogan was an election ploy. In the end, the only thing these slogans bequeathed Taiwan was a "Complete Volume of Political Humor."

Original Chinese below:

辯起來都是頭頭是道 做起來全是選舉算計

民 進黨總統初選首場電視政見會,一位副總統與三位歷任行政院長同台論辯,沒端出太多牛肉,倒是拿出不少公文,每一件公文都叫「鐵證如山」,重點也都是「錯的 是前(後)任,不是我」。民進黨綠天王個個熟諳選舉語言,卻對其曾經規畫的國土願景都患了健忘症。這些從檔案櫃裡挖出來的公文,不多不少,正凸顯一種唯選 舉是從的短視近利風格,他們不辯則已,一辯反倒把許多政策拖延的真相全洩了底 。


蘇 謝游三人,爭辯誰擋了蘇花高、誰放水?其實毫無意義。早在二○○○年總統大選,興建蘇花高就是陳水扁的競選政見。歷任民進黨閣揆都曾為陳水扁的支票背書。 最早的是張俊雄,二○○○年十月中旬,他不旦強調這是扁的政見,政府一定會推動,而且,還要「加速動工」;同月下旬,陳水扁自己都說了,政府不會放棄推動 蘇花高。隔年,二○○一年十一月,最近大聲倡議要回歸民進黨核心價值的葉菊蘭,當時正在擔任交通部長,她那時節的說法是「蘇花高一定會建」。部長與平民, 核心價值果然不同,兩相對比,無限反諷。

反諷的不僅於此。任內都已經完成預算編列、甚至土地徵收的游錫堃,透過核心幕僚強調,游錫堃採取 的依舊是「拖」字訣,一方面要求做環境差異分析,一方面另提出「東部發展和國土開發計畫」。游錫堃和其幕僚大概忘了,就是游錫堃本人,親赴花蓮拍胸脯保 證,「總統的競選承諾,一定兌現。」當時,是二○○三年,正值花蓮縣長補選打得火熱,當時的支票不僅蘇花高,游錫堃承諾投在花東的交通建設經費,從天上飛 的到地上跑的就有一千四、五百億。當時,唯一踩煞車的反而是副總統呂秀蓮,她說,「不要急,否則會呷緊弄破碗。」

游錫堃後來,果然對蘇花 高採「拖」字訣,未必出於環保,只是因民進黨提名的游盈隆落選了;甚至,隔年為了拚總統大選,內閣推出的「新十大計畫」,都未包括蘇花高,被立委察覺提出 質疑,游錫堃重申,「政府的政策是要建蘇花高」。可笑的是,新十大沒蘇花高,但二○○四年總統大選,陳水扁對花蓮的競選政見與承諾,還是興建蘇花高!


蘇 花高,對花蓮人而言,簡直成了精神折磨,迄今難料到底建是不建?卻也好在迄今仍在虛擬中,沒有,只是維持現狀。對台中人而言,可就沒這麼幸運,陳水扁隨便 一個競選支票,要搞個中部國際機場,讓原本國內線極為熱絡的水湳機場當場終結,清泉崗機場卻因為國際航線有限、兩岸航線未啟,處於半報廢狀態。更甭提也是 號稱國際機場的屏東機場,幾乎開不出航線。最近蘇內閣引起爭議的開放賽車賽馬,中央一句話,地方搶破頭,連規畫地點都找好了,卻落得蘇揆一句「八字還沒一 撇」;部會南遷或都北移至副都心,差點讓高雄市長陳菊「揮軍北上抗議」,台北縣長周錫瑋更怒,縣政府和中央開了六、七次會都是笑話嗎?

這 麼強調國家主體性、台灣主體性的民進黨,從總統到歷任行政院長擔負重責的天王們,對台灣整體國土規畫卻毫無概念,遑論理想。文章寫得都動聽,口號喊起來都 響亮,張俊雄有「八一○○,台灣啟動」;游錫堃有「挑戰二○○八」、「兩兆雙星」、「觀光客倍增」、「五年五千億」、「新十大」;謝長廷有「和解共生」、 還有沒編預算的「東部領航」替代計畫;蘇貞昌不落人後,「大投資、大溫暖」。每一個口號的前面都有一個選舉,每一個口號的旁邊都有一段宣傳VCR,每一個 選舉口號的背後,都有選票的算計;最後,這些建設口號留給台灣的:可能只是一本笑話大全。

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