Fri, 11 Feb 2000

Lesson from Germany

Politicians who stay in power too long discover that power corrupts. But no one can achieve much without spending some time in a key position. That is a double bind. A politician is held accountable for events that took place during his term. A politician is a failure if he has achieved nothing to be proud of, even if he was above reproach.

What is the corollary? Should we ignore the shady side of a politician's dealings if he has achieved some notable objectives that mark his brilliance in history? No. Even though politics is expensive, the money trail must be completely open. It is necessary to have both decisive political action and clear and full disclosure, even though they are difficult to reconcile.

Even in Germany, with a long history of party politics and well-established institutional framework, there have been unscrupulous dealings. Even a democracy can face an abyss. We dare not follow these events with bemused detachment.

-- The Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo