President Chen to turn new page for DPP

The China Post staff

President Chen Shui-bian will take over as the top man at the Democratic Progressive Party today, turning a new page for the ruling party and Chen’s administration.

Chen will succeed Frank Hsieh, who will run for a second term in the year-end Kaohsiung mayoral election.

The change of power structure at the ruling party and a new relationship between the DPP and the government are expected to make Chen’s work easier down the road.

But Chen’s growing power has given rise to concerns if he will be able to sustain the delicate line between his two roles. Chen is expected to draw up a vision for his party during his inauguration speech today, which reportedly will go for around 20 minutes, China Times Express reported yesterday.

Frustrated with a stagnant relationship with Beijing and eager to win a second term with a better cross-strait relationship, Chen plans to reshuffle the Straits Exchange Foundation, Taiwan’s semi-official body charged with talks and handling contacts with the mainland, the United Evening News reported.

The top officials at the SEF will be replaced with DPP members, the paper said. Chen does not plan to abolish the SEF as earlier reported but plans to have the DPP directly in command of cross-strait talks in the future.

The DPP recently appointed Chen Chung-hsin to head its Chinese affairs department, a move the media have touted as a friendly gesture toward Beijing because Chen Chung-hsin is not an independence diehard.

The president was forced to adjust the structure of the SEF in response to recent changes in the body’s mainland counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, the paper said.

Chen will be sworn in after National Congress session along with 35 newly elected Central Executive Committee members and 15 Central Standing Committee members, as well as other high-ranking party officials and eight newly appointed administrative officials. Ten of the 15 central standing committee members are elected from the ranks of the Central Executive Committee.

The final Central Standing Committee — the top policy making organ — lineup is very likely to be in line with the people’s expectations, China Times Express said. There won’t be any surprise names in the new committee, the paper said.

Some DPP lawmakers fret if Chen’s growing power will compromise their independence, as they may in end up becoming a rubber stamp for the executive branch of the government.

But most DPP lawmakers support Chen as their chairman. Tsai Huang-lang, secretary of the DPP’s Justice Alliance faction, said Chen as the leader of the people will unquestionably do whatever is desired by a majority of the people. Tsai said the changes at the DPP’s power lineup is a pragmatic step moving the DPP closer to the middle ground.

Another lawmaker Wang Hsin-nan said the DPP needs Chen’s tough approach to unite the party’s many factions.

Lo Wen-jia, the DPP’s designated spokesman, promised better consultations between the party and the lawmakers on major national policies. Political observers said the island’s people have been patient with the DPP government and have given many chances to Chen. But after Chen, who pledged he will stay out of political party affairs during his 2000 presidential campaign, becomes DPP chairman, he needs to be held fully accountable for the government’s policies in the future. After wielding so much power, Chen’s administration has to be more responsible instead of keeping blaming lack of cooperation by the opposition.

In a commentary, the China Times Express said Chen’s administration, from now on, has to learn how to share power with others and make a better use of his privileges to the well-being of the people, instead of pursuing more power. Chen plans to tour the party’s offices tomorrow, in an apparent warm-up for his reelection bid. Chen is widely tipped to run for a second term during the 2004 presidential election.