Monday, March 16, 2009

Beware the Arrogance of Power

Beware the Arrogance of Power
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
March 16, 2009

To the Democratic Progressive Party, Miaoli County is a political desert. Yet lo and behold, during the Miaoli County Legislative By-election, the KMT lost! An KMT official who ran an independent campaign and who was expelled for defying KMT orders, defeated the KMT candidate by 1600 votes. The Democratic Progressive Party wants to claim part of the credit. But Chu-nan Township Mayor Kang Shi-ju, who was clearly in tune with the public mood, emphasized that he was a member of the largest party -- the public. He did not rejoin the KMT after the election. Nor did he join the DPP. The two major parties on Taiwan have long controlled the island's politics. One party lost, the other party failed to win. The result reflected the mood of the majority on Taiwan.

The KMT made light of its defeat. It attributed the defeat to a low turnout, to insufficient effort on the KMT's part. It said the entire party was now in a state of heightened awareness, and in two weeks would mobilize its members for the Taipei City Da-an District By-election. But where are the signs of heightened KMT awareness? Where are the signs of KMT self-introspection? Painful lessons learned during eight years in the political wilderness seem to have been completely forgotten eight weeks after returning to power. The Presidential Office, the Executive Yuan, and the Party hierarchy all betray the KMT's "I'm the Boss" mindset. the KMT's contempt for public opinion has rapidly reawakened memories of the old KMT. The KMT richly deserved to lose the Miaoli County By-election. The question is how many times will the KMT have to lose before it finally awakens from its arrogant stupor?

Miaoli County has long been a region in which factional interests trumped party interests. As long as the KMT could pacify factional interests, the Democratic Progressive Party could never gain a foothold. This time, Kuomintang legislator Lee Yi-ting was convicted of vote-buying. His opponent had Lee's election victory declared null and void. The KMT cavalierly nominated Lee Yi-ting's wife Chen Luan-ying, "to do battle on her husband's behalf." The KMT flagrantly ignored its commitment to clean government. It ignored the impact of the invalidated election. For the KMT, any elections that factions can control may as well be handed over to the factions. When Taitung County Commissioner Wu Chun-li was relieved of office after being convicted of corruption, the KMT merely nominated Wu's wife Kwong Li-chen. The KMT may have won the County Commissioner Election, but it failed to win peoples' hearts and minds. Even today, in the eyes of constituents, Taitung County's political record comes in last place. Clearly Kwong's example failed to inspire self-introspection within the KMT.

The KMT is a huge dinosaur. Any reform or change is difficult, so difficult that it often unravels in short order. Eight years the KMT lost power. Ma Ying-jeou rode back to power on the crest of a new mandate. In contrast with the DPP, Ma Ying-jeou represented a new generation, a new political style, a new political rhetoric. Ma Ying-jeou succeeded in reversing public antipathy toward the KMT. Unfortunately, since Ma Ying-jeou was elected president last year, all we find at the central government level is Lee Teng-hui, Lien Chan, and Vincent Hsiew era political appointees from nine, ten years ago. The allegiance and sincerity of veteran statesmen is commendable. But it represents a significant gap between what Ma Ying-jeou is supposed to represent. An even more serious problem is that the KMT, which holds a supermajority in the Legislative Yuan, remains utterly oblivious to the changed political climate. The KMT supermajority in the legislature has not made the passage of budgets and bills promoted by the Presidential Office and the Executive Yuan more efficient. It has merely revealed the KMT's cluelessness regarding the importance of such bills in saving the economy.

What does concern the KMT? Nine years ago, KMT power was on the wane. Calls for "generational change" rang out everywhere. These calls brought Ma Ying-jeou to the political fore. The Presidential Office, the Executive Yuan, and Party hierarchy are filled with old authoritarian era faces, with so-called "political elites" cultivated during the Chiang Ching-kuo era. They are at least 60 years old. Some are over 70. Although old, they remain ambitious. Their power continues to grow. They refuse to pass the baton. The result is that even middle-aged leaders have been held back until they too are old. These old people from the Chiang Ching-kuo and Lee Teng-hui era occupy positions of power. All they think about is becoming Premier, SEF Chairman, or Party Chairman. Less than a year after returning to power, the KMT faces a crisis akin to the one the DPP faced during the latter stages of the Chen administration.

This includes even Ma Ying-jeou. One year later, his charisma has been seriously eroded. He helped the KMT return to power, but immediately reverted to the Teflon Ma Ying-jeou who disowns all responsibility for the KMT's shortcomings. The Legislative Yuan is unable to upgrade its efficiency. Defective candidate nomination procedures for Legislative By-elections or County Magistrate and City Mayor Elections have nothing to do with him. In less than a year the KMT has regressed to the KMT of ten years ago. Yet Ma Ying-jeou remains utterly clueless. Why does the public feel he is incompetent? The answer is simple. Because the KMT reforms he led or stood for have either been stalled or compromised.

Whether we are talking about Miaoli County or Taipei City's Da-an District, one or two seats more or less in the Legislative Yuan will not affect the KMT's supermajority. But peoples' hearts and minds are undergoing gradual change. Precisely because the Legislative By-election and year end County Magistrates and City Mayors Elections will not affect the central government, voters have decided to teach the KMT a lesson. When the KMT Central Committee vows that it will "annihilate Su Tseng-chang" in the year end Taipei County Magistrates election, it ought to remember the lesson of the Miaoli Legislative By-election. Those who become arrogant with power, usually annihilate themselves, rather than their opponents.

中國時報  2009.03.16








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