Tue, Nov 07, 2000 - Page 8 News List

Chen's struggle to keep presidency

By Yang Chao 楊照

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and the DPP correctly calculated the KMT's weak spot -- that it would not dare to file a no-confidence vote against the Cabinet under any circumstances. Such a calculation was not so difficult. The KMT currently has an absolute majority at the Legislative Yuan, but the latest opinion polls show that if the legislative elections were held today, the KMT would only be sure of getting 20 percent of the votes. Risking the dissolution of the legislature is not worth the KMT's while.

Perhaps depending on this calculation, Chen and the DPP have "provoked" the KMT several times, striking a "put up a no-confidence vote if you disagree" attitude. But Chen and the DPP failed to see the possibility that the KMT had another ruthless trick up its sleeve -- a presidential recall.

Since the de facto abolishment of the National Assembly, the power to recall the president and the vice president has shifted to the Legislative Yuan. There was no reason for Chen and the DPP to be ignorant about this. But there were a few reasons why it did not occur to them that the KMT would employ such a tactic.

The first and foremost reason had to be the two-thirds threshold for a recall -- which the KMT does not have. The second reason would be that they believed the KMT would be unable to join forces with the PFP, New Party and the independents to reach a two-thirds majority. The third reason would be that a presidential recall is a serious matter which is usually reserved for corruption and other major violations of the law. Look at the US. Bill Clinton had an extra-marital affair at the White House and committed perjury. But he was not forced from office.

Seen in this light, the KMT may have been too reckless in launching a recall drive over the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant (核四) issue. It might even look like making a big fuss about a trifle. The legislature is a supervisory body, while the Executive Yuan is the chief formulator and implementer of policies. If the executive branch would have to listen to the legislature simply because the latter is in the hands of the KMT, then where is the so-called "executive independence" to be found? How should they answer to the electorate, who did not entrust the KMT with executive power in the first place?

But viewed from another angle, we cannot help but feel surprised at how quickly Chen has exhausted his political resources -- and what he has gone through with his crude governance. Chen has quickly helped break the impasse between Lien Chan (連戰) and James Soong (宋楚瑜), which neither believed they could resolve any time soon. A two-thirds majority alliance, which neither the KMT nor the PFP would have dared dream of, is almost a reality -- with Chen the common enemy. If not for these developments -- which have been unimaginable until now -- the KMT would not have made its recall move.

The significance of the KMT's recall drive is not limited to kicking Chen out of the presidency. The move will also highlight the rising morale of the opposition parties. The recall drive has become a joint military drill by the "pan-KMT" opposition alliance. The drill may not be successful in the first round, but they can cultivate and improve their interaction in the process -- in preparation for future battles.

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