Wed, May 11, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Chen's isolation is his own doing

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has recently misjudged pan-green opinion, and has followed this by a number of misstatements when criticizing former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) in the media. He has made enemies across the political spectrum as a result, and precipitated a political crisis for his administration.

Pan-green supporters have urged voters to cast a punitive ballot in Saturday's National Assembly elections to teach Chen a lesson. Under pressure from declining support for his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Chen faced two and a half hours of interviews on Sunday and Monday nights for the same political TV program. During the interviews he said that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) had only called him prior to his trip to China because of US pressure, and that People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) met with Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) Director Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) when he visited the US earlier this year. This was a rarely seen display of damage control directed at both domestic and international audiences.

A punitive vote would probably mean a vote for the TSU in Saturday's poll, putting the DPP into second or third place. This message of dissatisfaction would serve to embarrass Chen. The purpose of the vote is to elect representatives for a National Assembly which will amend the Constitution in accordance with a package of revisions passed by the legislature last August. These include the inclusion of referendums into the Constitution as a means for ratifying future amendments, halving the number of legislators from 225 to 113 and adopting the "single-district, two-ballot" legislative electoral system. The assembly will not address changes to the national title, flag and anthem.

Recently, pan-green media and supporters have lambasted Chen for his willingness to shake hands with the Chinese leadership in the wake of Lien and Soong's visits. He described their visits as "tossing a stone to test the water" and "praiseworthy," adding that Lien's remarks during his visit complied with his role as an opposition leader. What's more, Chen even said these visits were just a prelude to the main attraction. Chen's remarks, which sought to create an atmosphere of cross-party and cross-strait reconciliation, have seriously upset many pan-green supporters, some of whom believe that Chen has deviated from the "one country on each side of the Strait" formula.

Any change in cross-strait relations touches on the fundamental security of the people of Taiwan. Without prior broad-based discussion on any such change, Chen seems to be in a great hurry to meet with China's President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤). It is no surprise that such a casual approach to this prospective meeting has unnerved many people in the pan-green camp. Some people have even suggested that Chen has ambitions to emulate Kim Dae-jung in winning a Nobel Peace Prize, and will use any means possible to secure this goal. As a result, there are now demands among grassroots green camp supporters that Chen be recalled.

As a national leader, Chen should not only have long-term goals and a comprehensive strategy for achieving them, he should also consult with the nation in the decision-making process. But he seems to think he can see more clearly than others and can afford to ignore the people. We do not object to Chen seeking to improve ties with China, but he cannot be allowed to play fast and loose with Taiwan's security, or endanger Taiwan's sovereignty and the power of the people.

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