Friday, December 16, 2005

Party Squabbling, Shuffling, Dancing

Squabbling families everywhere except in the KMT as Ma Ying-jeou keeps the party in line after the victory of the KMT in the local elections. Preisdent Chen announced yesterday that there would be a cabinet reshuffle.

"The wrongdoings of some members of the ruling team have disappointed the people longing for a clean government," Chen told a group of former dissidents in the Presidential Office.

He referred to a damaging corruption scandal involving a subway project in the southern city of Kaohsiung. The president's former right-hand man, Chen Che-nan, was among 18 people indicted.

"The whole ruling team, including A-Bian (Chen's nickname), the executive branch of the government and the ruling party, should conduct a humble self-inspection and learn from the failure," Chen said Thursday.

The president said the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) would "correct the mistakes and strive to work towards the goal of a clean government after the cabinet is reshuffled." He gave no timetable.

Chen needs to educate the people too -- to tell them to stop voting for gangsters. The Taiwan voter is a frustrating political animal -- on one hand she demands clean government, while on the other, she fills Taiwan's political ranks with gangsters at the local level. Stop me before I kill again! she seems to be saying. Reshuffling the cabinet, a marginally painful event which happens periodically, like flossing, will do zero to promote clean government, although it will give the appearance of energy. It reminds me of workers for a tyrannical, arbitrary boss who immediately sit up and start working whenever he appears on the shop floor.

Meanwhile James Soong, watching his Presidential ambitions vanishing into history faster than laundered cash in a Carribean casino district, is attempting to keep his own party members from bolting even as he courts the KMT.

Chin also denied earlier speculation that Soong would return to the KMT, saying that as a party chairman, Soong would not abandon his party members for his own personal interests, which Chin said were not discussed in the meeting.

Both chairmen separately stressed before Monday's encounter that they would not discuss matters regarding their personal interests. There had been speculation that should the two parties end up merging, the KMT would designate Soong as its candidate for the Taipei Mayoral election next year.

Sure they didn't discuss "personal interests." The PFP is, even on its best days, little more than the personal fief of Soong. What else could they discuss but Soong's interests if they discussed the PFP? Meanwhile Soong thundered away at his own party members:

Opposition People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) yesterday criticized party members - specifically Legislator Sun Ta-chien (孫大千) - for making "inappropriate remarks" that suggested the party was inferior to its pan-blue ally, the Kuomintang.

"Every person is entitled to his own understanding of all matters," remarked Soong, "but (Sun) didn't have to say that (the PFP) was unbearable."

Soong reportedly refuted comments by Sun on Tuesday that the initial objective of the PFP was to resist the platforms of former President and KMT Chairman Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), and that the PFP, having achieved its task of removing Lee's influence from the party, should not be bothered if the KMT "thrusts (the PFP) away like used tissue paper."

The PFP is the anti-Lee Teng-hui party! I guess there's more to them than I thought. Congratulations Mr. Former President Lee, you've spawned a whole opposition aimed at you. In a way this highlights the extent to which "party politics" in Taiwan are extensions of intrapersonal struggles, with the KMT behaving essentially as an anti-Chen party as long as President Chen holds office, while the PFP was responding to the leprous influence of the dreaded Lee Teng-hui ("President Lee, I should have expected to find you holding Ma's leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board.") The interesting thing is that voters take it for granted that the opposition position is entirely negative and voices no positive policy options of its own. People criticize the negativity but rarely do they express a desire for positive policy. It seems that Taiwanese understand democracy to be that system in which the opposition's role is to oppose, only.

The KMT certainly looks to be in a very strong position now. I'm waiting for the gathering thunderhead of Ma's rival Wang, who had the support of Party insiders until he lost badly to Ma in the Chairmanship election, to manifest itself in some giant bitter lingering internal storm, like Jupiter's famous Red Spot. Ma's warnings on Party unity reported in the Taipei Times seem to be aimed at forestalling exactly this kind of dissension.

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