Friday, June 12, 2009

The KMT Nearly Torpedoed Itself, Again

The KMT Nearly Torpedoed Itself, Again
China Times News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
June 12, 2009

The Taipei 101 building has become a Taipei landmark, the symbol of a new Taiwan. Therefore when the KMT cavalierly uses this symbol as a political reward, what kind of message is it sending? Ma Ying-jeou has just assumed the party chairmanship. Can he rid the KMT of its bad habits? This will be the biggest test of Ma Ying-jeou's success or failure as party chairman.

Hsu Shu-Po's sudden appointment as chairman of the Taipei 101 building has raised a public outcry. The KMT, the Executive Yuan, and the Legislative Yuan have all denied knowledge of the appointment. But statements by knowledgeable parties reveal that the KMT must have known. First of all, this appointment was made to resolve an intraparty election dispute. Secondly, the executive branch must also have known. The day before yesterday, Vice Premier Paul Chiu admitted as much. Hsu Shu-Po was even more forthcoming. He said the appointment was made through Executive Yuan Secretary-General Hsueh Hsiang-Chuan.

In the absence of such a development, it is easy to imagine the criticism the KMT would be subjected to at this moment. The road to the summit may be winding. But even after eight years in the opposition, the KMT has yet to learn its lesson. It is still the same old muddle-headed, arrogant, and insensitive political party. How muddle-headed is the KMT? It unthinkingly used a public institution as a political reward. Its matter of fact attitude boggles the mind. Diana Chen bought the chairmanship of Taipei 101 for 10 million NT. The courts have chosen not to pursue the matter. But the public feels deep abhorrence for such political deals. Yet the KMT seems utterly insensitive to the public antipathy.

Even more mind-boggling is that the entire appointment process was so familiar, so practiced. Everyone from the party to the administration was on the same page. It was as if the Invisible Hand was at work, spontaneously making personnel appointments. So what if news of the personnel appointments made headlines on the day Ma Ying-jeou announced his assumption of the party chairmanship. They would have achieve their goal without anyone being the wiser.

On the surface, such political appointments highlight structural problems within the KMT and with politics on Taiwan as a whole. The KMT remains mired in factional politics. Every election is a re-allocation of power and resources to factions. Therefore the loser must be compensated. This political "ecology" encourages local factions to plunge into the electoral process. Otherwise they will lose out on their share of the spoils. Sad to say such bad habits are easily learned. When the Democratic Progressive Party was in the opposition it could rely on party discipline and voter enthusiasm to prevent breaches of discipline. But once it became the ruling party, it resorted to the same political rewards system to settle intraparty electoral conflicts, and suppress factional strife. Alas, resort to such means failed to keep it in power.

Even more serious is the private use of public resources or even the outright looting of national assets. The KMT stepped down in 2000. It had problems with party owned enterprises. But at least it used professional managers to manage state-owned enterprises. The appointment of heads of public utilities were made by the Department of Personnel. The Executive Yuan did not interfere. But once the Democratic Progressive Party took office, everyone from the chairmen of public utilities down to thousands of consultants were all appointed by President Chen Shui-bian and the presidential office. Ah-Bian as president became the controller and distributor of the nation's assets. The harm inflicted upon clean government was grave. Hsu Shu-Po's appointment feels like a return to the era of Democratic Progressive Party rule. For example, by controlling public shares, the government can dominate personnel appointments. It can turn shareholders and the board into a rubber stamp. During DPP rule such appointments became bargaining chips in a political quid pro quo. Even the Democratic Progressive Party found it intolerable. Now the KMT is using the same means to consolidate its electoral victory. This has left the public fearful of the "party/state complex."

The Democratic Progressive Party lost power in 2008 because Ah-Bian treated the nation's resources as if they were the DPP's private assets. When Premier Liu Chao-shiuan took office he pledged to use professional managers. He promised he would not be personally involved in personnel appointments. His words are still ringing in our ears. But Hsu Shu-Po's appointment has made a mockery of Premier Liu's pledge.

Political rewards are not unique to Taiwan. US presidents have also used presidential cabinet appointments and ambassadorial appointments as political rewards. But the public has found this increasingly unacceptable. George W. Bush was criticized for rewarding so many cronies with foreign service appointments. The public on Taiwan can no longer tolerate such a " necessary evil."

Of course, to truly and fundamentally resolve the problem of political rewards, one must forbid the government from holding vast amounts of state assets. Unfortunately the financial turmoil has led governments the world over to intervene in the market. Divesting governments of state assets will be difficult to achieve in the short term. But the incoming party chairman is Ma Ying-jeou. He is determined to implement sunshine policies. Surely he understands that the real problem is the KMT. Therefore he should make an example of the Hsu Shu-Po case. He should begin by addressing the party's ingrained habits. He should eradicate the party's practice of using political appointments are political rewards. When Wu Po-hsiung and other elders have set an example by "retiring with nothing," perhaps the practice of political quid pro quo can be eliminated.

中時電子報 新聞
中國時報  2009.06.12



如果不是出現這樣一個轉折,不難想像此刻國民黨會被怎樣的批評!儘管最終峰迴路轉,我們還是必須說,即使經過八年再野的教訓,國民黨還是那個顢頇、老大、無感的舊政黨;國民黨顢頇到一個地步,不假思索就將國家公器做為政治酬庸的工具,理所當然的心態令人駭異,陳敏薰用一千萬元買來一 ○一董事長之事曝光,司法雖未追訴,民眾對於類似的政治交易深惡痛絕,但國民黨竟然對民意的好惡渾然不覺。



更嚴重的,則是公器私用、甚或竊據國產的問題。國民黨在二千年下台前,雖有黨產等諸多爭議,但國營事業至少仍由專業人才管理,國公營事業人事也都由主管部會裁決,行政院長甚少過問;但是,民進黨執政後,則國公營事業上到董事長下至顧問等數千職位,當時總統陳水扁及其辦公室幾乎無一不過問,扁以總統之尊成為國家資產的操控及分配者,對政治清廉危害甚深。 此次許舒博人事案操作,則令人有重返民進黨時代之感,例如,政府藉由掌控公股,就可完全主導人事,完全將股東及董事會當作橡皮圖章。民進黨時代,這些位置成為扁一人利益交換的籌碼,連民進黨都看不下去;現在的國民黨則用來鞏固選舉勝利,更落實民眾「黨政不分」的疑慮。




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