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President's soul-searching focused on leadership style

2018/11/28 18:58:40

Taipei, Nov. 28 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said Wednesday that she has neglected her responsibility of being the main communicator of the country and has failed to lead it from the frontline, leading to a divided society and criticism mounted on the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) from all sides.

At the beginning of the DPP's weekly central standing committee meeting Wednesday, the first since the party's major defeat in the Nov. 24 local government elections, Tsai read out part of a letter she addressed to party members earlier that day.

When the election results become clear on election night, Tsai resigned as chairwoman of the DPP to take responsibility for the party's loss of seven cities and counties it previously held, including the special municipalities of Taichung and Kaohsiung.

In the elections, the DPP was hit by public dissatisfaction accumulated over the past two years with the reforms her administration has carried out since she came to office in May 2016, but the reforms were not to blame for the election results, Tsai said.

"With the reforms, we are in the right direction" to become a better country, according to the president.

The problems lie in how the reforms have been conducted, Tsai said.

"When we pushed for reforms, we did not provide sufficient comfort to people who were adversely affected. When we advance toward progressive values, we did not pay attention to the acceptance of the values among the public," Tsai said.

In the pursuit of economic and energy transformation and other projects to address air pollution, the government failed to take into account how disadvantaged people would be affected and failed to offer them adequate assistance, Tsai said.

Tsai was apparently referring to the passage of the Air Pollution Control Act in June that allows the government to come up with more strict emissions standards to accelerate the retirement of high pollution-emitting vehicles.

That was identified by the DPP in post-election review as a factor that has worked against support for the party.

In her letter, Tsai said that since she came to office, she has been tied up with national security-related issues, state affairs and other tight schedules. "I neglected that the president should be the main communicator of the nation."

What is especially important is that the president should communicate the public's emotions and feelings to the government so that the government can make policy that resonates with the people, Tsai said.

It was this "inadequate communication" that caused the gap between the public's expectations and government policy, she added.

Tsai went on to say that when it comes to certain issues over which people are divided, she has chosen to remain silent or not take a strong stance, hoping to reduce confrontation.

However, the social divisions over these issues have not ended just because she has refrained from expressing her views, Tsai said.

"Although I have made policy decisions, I did not lead from the frontline. That has left supporters clueless on how to defend and has allowed opponents to gather strength." The DPP has been sandwiched between the opposing sides of various issues, the president said. "We wanted to strike a balance, but we were attacked by both sides.”

Over the past two years, Tsai said, the government has conducted reforms at a pace that has allowed more room for it to listen to and talk to people with different views about the targeted agendas, but that approach has made supporters impatient and dissatisfied with the government and lose their passion for the DPP.

"Even worse, there is a sense that the whole of Taiwan is trapped," she added.

The politics of today in the era of the Internet is very different from when she was elected president, Tsai said. "The way we communicate with society has not kept pace with the dramatic way society has changed."

"Taiwanese people have given the DPP a lesson with the ballots they cast. The whole government must reflect on itself," Tsai said. "We have to work in a more straightforward way, up the tempo, and resonate with people. Politics is about delivering answers."

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan)
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