DPP: Black Gold or Clean Government?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 20, 2012
Summary: This is a watershed moment for the DPP. A single intraparty power shuffle has compromised the DPP's integrity. How many power struggles and temptations does the future hold? How many opportunists crawl out from under the rocks in the event the DPP returns to power? Will the Democratic Progressive Party have the ability to clean house? Will it have the slightest desire to do so?
Full Text below:
We generally assume that political parties and politicians are rational. But often they behave like moths before a flame. Often they find themselves mired in scandal, unable or unwilling to extricate themselves. This was true of the KMT, with its past links to Black Gold. This is equally true of the DPP, with its current links to Black Gold, revealed over the past two days. These links have created a foul atmosphere at the very heart of the "new" DPP power structure.
The Democratic Progressive Party recently held its National Party Congress. It held Central Standing Committee and Central Executive Committee elections. DPP elections have always been about power, never about ideals. The public expected little from the current National Party Congress power struggle. But the results have been even worse than expected. Rumors of vote buying preceded the elections. Following the elections, Central Executive Committee member Hong Chi-kun delivered the bad news. Underworld figures took part in the election. Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu helped Li Ching-fu, an underworld figure convicted of corruption, win election to the DPP Central Standing Committee. Hong called on the DPP Central Standing Committee to conduct a thorough investigation.
The DPP's first reaction was to ignore the vote-buying. The DPP's official spokesman airily dismissed the charges, saying, "The party has no past record of vote buying." In response to revelations that a member of the Central Standing Committee was guilty of corruption, the DPP did not blink. It said simply that "The elected candidate was fully qualified."
Were underworld figures involved in the DPP party elections? DPP spin doctors insisted there was no evidence. They said they would conduct an in-depth investigation. But when Li Ching-fu was Kaohsiung County Qiaotou Village mayor, he was indicted for accepting bribes from vendors. He was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. Last year the Kaohsiung High Court reduced his sentence to six years. This is all spelled out in black and white. This is all a matter of public record. DPP officials often use "political persecution" as a shield against charges of corruption. But Hong Chi-kun blew the whistle on DPP corruption. He noted the timeframe for Li Ching-fu's corruption. it occurred during 2000, under a DPP central government. The DPP cannot cite KMT political persecution as an excuse.
The DPP Central Standing Committee and DPP officials' handling of the matter has made it even more controversial. First, the DPP Party Official Election Procedures stipulate that anyone "indicted for the crime of embezzlement" may not register as a candidate in party elections. Li Ching-fu was not merely indicted. He was convicted. His conviction was upheld on appeal. Yet somehow he was able to pas review and register as a candidate. The DPP clearly has no checks on eligibility. Was the DPP deliberately giving Li a free pass? How can people not wonder?
The DPP Central Executive Committee and Central Standing Committee elections are equally controversial. These elections have long relied on factional quid pro quo deal making. They have never been predicated upon the power of individual candidates. Li Ching-fu's power within the party is limited. Without help from the Chen Chu camp, he could not have been elected to the Central Standing Committee. Even Liu Shih-fang and Chen Chu faction leaders do not dispute this. They discovered problems with Yu Cheng-hsien's ballots. That is why they abruptly switched their support to Li Ching-fu.
This was the key. Hong Chi-kun revealed the truth. Li Ching-fu threatened Chen Chu. She was forced to support him. But the Chen Chu faction made this decision on its own. How much local support does Li Ching-fu have? Why was Chen Chu unable to turn him down? Why did she feel she had no other choice?
DPP officials may feel that colluding with controversial local strongmen is a necessary evil in politics. They may argue that this does not mean the DPP is involved in corruption. But have DPP officials forgotten? The year 2000 change in ruling parties was the result of a photograph of Wu Tse-yuan standing next to Lien Chan during a campaigning rally. As a result, the Kuomintang was labeled a Black Gold regime. The DPP blew the significance of the photo far out of proportion. Now however, convicted criminals can take part in DPP party elections. They can register as candidates. They can be elected to the DPP Central Standing Committee. They can become members of the top ranks of the DPP. If the DPP is subsequently denounced as a Black Gold political party, they can hardly say they were wronged.
President Ma Ying-jeou has long boasted of his integrity. The Lin Yi-shi corruption scandal erupted nevertheless. Under Ma Ying-jeou's chairmanship, incidents of vote buying erupted during Central Standing Committee elections. But here is where the KMT parts company with the DPP. Ma Ying-jeou ordered investigations. Those suspected of vote buying were suspended. The Central Standing Committee elections were held over. Ma Ying-jeou was criticized as undemocratic for his actions. But the party had its bylaws. Taiwan's two major parties are democratic centralist. Cleaning up the party and cleaning up oneself is something that must be done.
Similarly, the DPP factions rule. If they turn a blind eye to their own corruption, what kind of message are they sending the outside world? What kind of impression are they leaving the outside world? They are announcing to the world that they are just as tainted by their Black Gold connections as the KMT was in its time.
So far, DPP officials have been denouncing whistleblowers for harboring ulterior motives. They have been dismissing charges of corruption as part of an internal power struggle. They have been dismissing the controversy as a tempest in a teapot. This pattern of denial is the DPP's sorrow. When the Lin Yi-shi corruption scandal erupted, the public recalled the KMT's past history of Black Gold involvement. DPP leaders have apparently forgotten this. The DPP could have seized the opportunity to restore integrity within the party. After all, this is the main reason the public supported the 2000 change in ruling parties.
This is a watershed moment for the DPP. A single intraparty power shuffle has compromised the DPP's integrity. How many power struggles and temptations does the future hold? How many opportunists crawl out from under the rocks in the event the DPP returns to power? Will the Democratic Progressive Party have the ability to clean house? Will it have the slightest desire to do so?