Clean Up the Mess, Before It Gets Even Worse
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 1, 2009
That Taipei County Magistrate Chou Hsi-wei's approval ratings are in the cellar is not news. They have been low from his first year in office. Even going into the mountains to catch a tiger did nothing to improve his ratings. His ratings have been low for three years. But the KMT has never taken the problem seriously. It never bothered to think about how to help him. Only when the Democratic Progressive Party floated the notion of Su Tseng-chang returning to run in the year end Taipei County Magistrate Election, did Chou Hsi-wei's poll numbers alarm the Kuomintang. It's ironic. Green Camp "Prince" Su Tseng-chang is the reason Chou Hsi-wei's approval ratings fell so far. They fell so far the KMT blasted him constantly. But Su Tseng-chang is also the reason the KMT in unable to replace Chou for now. No Blue Camp "Prince" is willing to go head to head with Su. Others watching from the sidelines have expressed a desire to run. But their poll numbers range from 1% to 5%, many times worse than Chou Hsi-wei's.
The Kuomintang has been back in power less than a year. But it has already back to its old tricks. It is again "expert at fighting one's comrades, but amateurs at fighting one's enemies." Unable to win against the Democratic Progressive Party, its officials float rumors undermining their own comrades. The KMT is a perverse party that never learns its lessons. Party Chairman Wu Po-hsiung loves to go on about how "United we may not win, but disunited we will surely lose." He is talking to himself. No one inside the party listens to this old chairman's dire warnings. The KMT, like the DPP, doesn't understand that being in power and being in the opposition are not the same. The public has dramatically different expectations of those in power. When the KMT lost control of the central government, the KMT's younger generation "Princes" ran for county magistrates and city mayors. The KMT chose not to "airdrop" senior officials into these positions. These younger generation "Princes" had little hope of winning these County Magistrate and City Mayor Elections. But eight years ago they entered the fray and held down the fort. During its eight years in the political wilderness, the KMT failed to cultivate any new talent. When it returned to power, it fell back on the same old political appointees. Its political campaigns were still being fought by these same younger generation "Princes." More senior party officials who did nothing for eight years, thought only about jockeying for official appointments amidst the turmoil. Based on their poll numbers, if any of them were actually to go into battle, the casualty reports would read: KIA (Killed in Action).
So what can the KMT do? Would "airdropping" younger generation candidates into these local elections do the trick? For example, Taoyuan County Magistrate Chu Li-lun and Taichung Mayor Jason Hu are two of the names most frequently mentioned by the KMT leadership. If they are to run for Taipei County Magistrate, they will have to transfer their residency to Taipei County by June. They would no longer be qualified to serve in Taoyuan County and Taichung City. To Taoyuan County and Taichung City citizens, it would look as if the KMT cared only about Taipei County, and nothing about them. This is hardly an impression the KMT can afford to leave. Not to mention the public probably wants them to join the Central Government in order to develop their full potential. The KMT habitually strands its talent at the local level. This is not right.
Former governor James Soong, who has been out of the picture, has been trotted out as a heavyweight able to defeat Su Tseng-chang. When James Soong was elected governor he ascended to the peak of his political career. Ever since then he has been a hard luck case. The provincial government was frozen. He lost the Presidential Election as a result of the Chung Hsing Bills case. One can hardly blame him for fulminating as Chen Shui-bian engaged in eight years of wholesale corruption and money-laundering. During these eight years not a single office he aspired to, from Premier to Taipei Mayor, has come to fruition.
It's not that James Soong shouldn't run for Taipei County Magistrate. The Democratic Progressive Party wants former County Commissioner Chen Tang-shan to run in the Tainan County Commissioner's race. If he can run, why can't James Soong? Chou Hsi-wei was one of Soong's loyal soldiers. If Soong chooses to run, how can Chou oppose him? The problem is that ever since the provincial government was frozen, the KMT has been unwilling to accommodate Soong. It has no problem maintaining amicable relations with him. But no one in the KMT is willing to allow Soong to wield real power, even a humble local office. Most importantly, the People First Party dissolved itself and joined the KMT. James Soong, who was once a member of the KMT's center of power, declared that he was quitting politics. He has yet to return to the KMT. To expect him to participate in the KMT primaries is impossible, Even if Soong were drafted, would he really be willing to run under the KMT banner again? Given James Soong's political character, the KMT would have to do more than merely ask him before he would consent.
The KMT knows Chou Hsi-wei may have trouble winning a second term, but it has yet to find a solution to the problem. Instead, it has stupidly used poll results to pressure Chou Hsi-wei. Unfortunately this will neither force Chou to back down, nor produce a better replacement. The result has been chaos. Chou Hsi-wei has openly vented his anger, blasting the party leadership for undermining him. The KMT probably never intended to undermine Chou. Its undermining of Chou was probably unintentional, the result of stupidity. It also undermined itself, turning the KMT into an object of ridicule.
Taipei County is Taiwan's largest county. It boasts the largest population. Whoever wins Taipei County is halfway to winning the Presidential Election. Put simply, in the year-end elections, other constituencies are small fry. Minor changes may take place, but the bigger picture is set. The difference between losing and winning will be slight. The key to success or failure will be Taipei County. It is the region most likely to become a vote of confidence in the Ma administration and the Liu cabinet. Even Chou Hsi-wei understands the heavy burden on his shoulders. Even he cannot afford defeat. As long as the KMT is truly determined to win this election, Chou Hsi-wei entering or withdrawing from the race is not the issue. The issue is whether the KMT is truly determined. The party chairman must do more than merely repeat calls for "unity." If the KMT lacks determination, its plight will only worsen. It's not as if the KMT has never lost. But is the KMT really willing to be blasted as incompetent?