Can the DPP Dissociate Itself from the Chen Corruption Case?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 7, 2011
On May 3, the Legislative Yuan amended the law. It decriminalized the Discretionary Fund. The Discretionary Fund case had dragged on for three years. Therefore, this was a red letter day. For high-ranking members of the DPP, it was a emotional watershed. Relevant bills are pending in the Legislative Yuan. If they pass their third reading, the DPP will finally be able to sever its emotional links with Chen Shui-bian, Can the DPP really emerge from under the shadow of Chen Shui-bian?
For government heads, the Discretionary Fund is considered a "skeleton in the closet." It affects a total of 7500 ruling and opposition party officials, including many DPP officials and DPP heavyweights. They will inevitably participate in the upcoming general election. The ruling and opposition parties are making determined efforts to recruit people from the Executive Yuan, the Legislative Yuan, and the DPP. Needless to say, none of them want to acknowledge this skeleton in their closet. They are highly motivated to amend the law. But over the past two years, the ruling and opposition parties have been deadlocked over Chen Shui-bian's State Affairs Fund case.
In the past the DPP argued, as Chen Shui-bian argued, that the President's State Affairs Fund was a type of Discretionary Fund for government heads. The DPP argued that Ah-Bian's State Affairs Fund case had to be decriminalized, since it too amounted to a Discretionary Fund case. The ruling and opposition parties have been unable to agree. Chen Shui-bian's State Affairs Fund case has yet to pass its third reading. But the DPP has already retreated. It has come to the realization that if the DPP is to have a future, it can no longer allow itself to be held back by Chen Shui-bian.
But emotional detachment is not the same as earnest soul-searching. Over the past three years, the Democratic Progressive Party has been led by Tsai Ing-wen. It has not engaged in earnest soul-searching over the corruption scandals of the Chen Shui-bian era. Yet it won a string of elections. As a result, the DPP is brimming over with confidence. It is certain that the shadow of the Chen regime's corruption is behind it. It is certain Chen era corruption will no longer hurt the DPP's election prospects. But the Chen corruption case remains a skeleton in the DPP's closet. The Chen corruption case may no longer be the current focus of public attention. But neither is it water under the bridge.
Then Bureau of Investigation Chief Yeh Sheng-mao is finally behind bars for his part in the case. This reminds the public that during his term, Chen Shui-bian abused the investigative powers of the intelligence agencies to liquidate his enemies and whitewash Chen family and DPP corruption. Chen family confidant Huang Fang-yan fled to the US. Graphic images of him thumbing his nose at the law were splashed across the front pages. We can hardly forget how the president abused his officially delegated powers. Worse still, he enabled those who lacked officially delegated powers to summon the wind and rain, to meddle in the affairs of the military, financial conglomerates, even department stores. He turned the Office of the President into a political patronage brokerage house.
The DPP has never engaged in soul-searching about these matters, let alone apologize to the nation. Until it does, Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP will never be free from the stigma of Chen Shui-bian. The media characterizes Tsai Ing-wen's campaign as "the Tsai Dynasty, founded by Chen Family Forces." Public perception is negative, but Tsai Ing-wen can say little in her own defense. That is because she has never drawn clear lines of distinction between herself and Chen. The Chen faction remains the equal of other factions within the DPP. It vigorously backed Tsai Ing-wen during the party primaries. It was a major campaign contributor. It has become part of the DPP's general election campaign committee. If in the future it makes any requests, can Tsai Ing-wen really say no?
Of course, Chen Shui-bian is not Tsai Ing-wen's only headache. The DPP is desperately anxious to return to power. Therefore, its current priority is to heal the rift between Tsai Ing-wen and Su Tseng-chang. This rift arose during the party primaries. If Tsai and Su are unable to reach an accord, the entire election campaign may remain in disarray. President Ma Ying-jeou is the incumbent. He and Premier Wu Den-yih are already at their battle stations, The ranks of the Blue Camp are largely complete. The DPP, on the other hand, may find its own ranks in disarray, unable to repel outside attackers due to internal strife.
The Tsai vs. Su rivalry is hardly the only internal dispute. For years, deep-rooted grievances have divided the DPP. These include factional disputes and non-factional disputes. Personal grudges between Frank Hsieh and Su Tseng-chang may have turned into factional grudges between the Hsieh faction and the Su faction. To some extent, Tsai Ing-wen used these long-standing grudges to give herself a leg up during the party primaries. Once she won, she obviously could not ill-treat Frank Hsieh, who saved the day. On the one hand, Tsai Ing-wen must win over Su Tseng-chang. On the other hand, she must not humiliate Frank Hsieh. Tsai Ing-wen may treat the personal grievances between herself and Su Tseng-chang as bygones. But Su and Hsieh must also reach an accord. None of this is going to be easy.
If Tsai Ing-wen cannot strike an accord between rival factions, the Executive Committee many find it difficult even to approve its nominees for Legislators without Portfolio during the June 25 Executive Committee. Some things are even more difficult than mollifying the factions. This time, the DPP chose not to hold party primaries. The entire roster of nominees was decided by the DPP party leadership. If the Legislators without Portfolio are merely the product of compromises between party factions, and demonstrate no professionalism or ability, Tsai Ing-wen may be hurt.
Next year's presidential election is only six months away. Important issues have been added to the agenda. Matters are already complicated, hence difficult to handle. In the end, this could influence the election and public perception. The Chen corruption case remains a skeleton in the DPP's closet. That is because the DPP has never faced the Chen corruption case squarely. As a result, this period of history will continue to haunt the DPP.