Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Candidates for Elective Office Holding Government Positions: Not A Problem

Candidates for Elective Office Holding Government Positions: Not A Problem
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
June 30, 2011

Ma Ying-jeou and Wu Den-yi have formed a presidential/vice presidential ticket. Now the DPP is insisting that Wu Den-yih may not "run for elective office while holding down a government position." It is demanding that he immediately resign as premier, to preclude the abuse of administrative resources, and unfair election results. In response, Wu Den-yih has argued that "the law does not prohibit" candidates from holding down a government position. But he promised to maintain administrative neutrality.

Experience and logic tell us that '
The proposition that "candidates for elective office may not hold government positions" is a phony one. The DPP's demands are completely unreasonable. But Wu Den-yih's response left something to be desired also. The most obvious example is the last presidential election. The DPP's Hsieh/Su ticket did not include anyone in a government position. But Premier Chang Chun-hsiung, at the behest of Chen Shui-bian, abused the power of his office by offering "a perk a week," in a flagrant attempt to buy off the voters. That was the real catastrophe. Superficially the issue is "candidates for elective office who hold government positions." In reality the issue is the abuse of government resources with utter impunity. Does the ROC really wish to revisit this nightmare?

Now consider the matter from the perspective of political theory, The proposition that a "candidate for elective office may not hold a government position," is riddled with internal contradictions. First of all, in a democratic election, anyone seeking re-election as Chief Executive is clearly a candidate for elective office who holds down a government position." The DPP knows perfectly well that it cannot possibly demand that President Ma disqualify himself as as a candidate merely because he holds down a government position. Yet it makes this demand of his running mate. This puts the cart before the horse, and is utterly illogical. Secondly, under a democracy, the ruling party assumes total responsibility for any of its administration's failures. It accepts the judgment of the voters. When an opposition party takes aim at a specific individual however, its motive is clearly to engage in political harassment. Thirdly, the issue is not whether a candidate for elective office may hold down a government position. The issue is whether he or she has maintained administrative neutrality.

Suppose four years ago President Ma had emulated President Chen's strategy with Chang Chun-hsiung? Suppose he refrained from appointing Wu Den-yih premier, thereby enabling Wu to concentrate on the election? Suppose he had instead appointed a new, interim premier to handle the transition, specifically to dole out benefits for the sake of Ma's campaign? Suppose he had written voters a stack of rubber checks, to be paid for by what unknown party, by what unknown date? This "candidates for elective office may not hold government positions" rhetoric is ludicrous. Who has the cheek to say it is in the interests of the public?

Chang Chun-hsiung made a comeback. He doled out "a perk a week," throwing money about left and right. Even more frightening however, was the atmosphere of confrontation during the general election. The Chen regime totally ignored the public condemnation. It did whatever it pleased. After the Green Camp lost the election, Chang Chun-hsiung withdrew from politics. He evaded all responsibility. The candidate may not have held a government position. But holders of government positions engaged in rampant misconduct. Clearly the demand that "candidates for elective office may not hold government positions" is utterly beside the point.

Let's take a closer look. In May 2007 Su Tseng-chang resigned as premier. He resigned not because he was to be Frank Hsieh's running mate in the general election. He resigned not because he was taking the initiative to avoid a conflict of interest. He resigned because even though he enjoyed the advantage of being the premier, he still lost to Frank Hsieh in the party primaries. He resigned because he had no choice. Therefore helped Chen Shui-bian regroup and do battle. Yet the DPP would have the public believe that Chang Chun-hsiung's return as premier set an example worthy of emulation. The DPP would have the public believe that it demonstrated a commitment to the principle that "candidates for elective office may not hold government positions." That is simply a lie.

Lest we forget, in April that same year, Su Tseng-chang put on a show. He presented himself as a champion of the notion that "candidates for elective office may not hold government positions." But Chen Shui-bian asked him to stay on, and that was the end of that charade. Ironically, when Su Tseng-chang wanted to quit as premier, it was not to demonstrate strict adherence to the principle of political neutrality. It was because several presidential aspirants joined forces with DPP Chairman Pro Tem Trong Chai. They turned the screws and demanded his resignation, to ensure fairness in the party primaries. Therefore the DPP's insistence that "candidates for elective office may not hold government positions" was nothing more than the result of an internecine power struggle.

Furthermore, during the 2008 general election, Chen Shui-bian could no longer run for re-election. But he continued using the power of the presidency to manipulate the election. He used government resources to launch his "referenda" and to create chaos. As we can see, the problem is not candidates for elective office who hold government positions. The problem is officials who hold government positions abusing their power, even when they are not candidates for elective office. The problem is the government and the ruling party's lack of political integrity. The DPP is guilty of so many past abuses. Yet it can boast, with a straight face, and without changing color, that its "candidates for elective office did not hold government positions." One simply must learn how they do it.

The proposition that "candidates for elective office may not hold government positions" is utterly phony. The ruling and opposition parties must not turn it into a political football. It is farce that need be enacted only once, to know that it was a mistake. We need not play it out a second time. If Wu Den-yih reneges on his commitment to administrative neutrality, the public will render its judgment on election day. But being a candidate for elective office while holding down a government position in not a problem.

【聯合報╱社論】 2011.06.30










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