Thu, May 18, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Chen's problems hurt us all

Nobody ever said it was easy being president, let alone the president of a country that has as uncertain a status as Taiwan. President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has no easy task trying to boost Taiwan's competiveness, while also trying to support efforts toward building a national consciousness.

Now, with the latest spate of allegations involving associates close to the first family, life is not any easier for Chen. After fending off allegations by pan-blue legislators about his wife, Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍), and accusations that his senior aides meddled in merger deals between private businesses before his trip to Latin America earlier this month, Chen must now contend with more intrigue concerning relatives of the first family.

The parents of Chen's son-in-law, Chao Chien-ming (趙建銘), were accused of financial improprieties by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅). Chiu claimed that Chao's mother, Chien Shui-mien (簡水綿), was involved in insider trading after she bought shares in Taiwan Development Corp (TDC) sold by Chang Hwa Commercial Bank.

Chang Hwa sold all 24 million TDC shares it owned to three people, including Chien. Chien bought the shares last year at relatively low prices when the company was experiencing financial troubles. TDC was later bailed out, and its share price rose rapidly, enabling her to net a big fortune, Chiu said. Thus, Chen was given no time to bask in the 33 percent approval rating he enjoyed in the wake of his just-concluded diplomatic trip to South America -- a rating which was rather encouraging, given his previous one of 18 percent in March.

Although it is not his own wrongdoing, the allegation nonetheless has dealt another blow to the Democratic Progressive Party administration, which is already suffering from low morale due to its stagnant approval rating, as evidenced by the latest poll conducted by the party's political ally, the Taiwan Solidarity Union.

According to a poll released on Tuesday, Chen's approval rating has dropped to a new low of just 5.8 percent. Obviously these allegations are hurting Chen and his government, and subsequently, the legitimacy of the pro-localization movement.

One could call Chao and his family naive, unaware of the effect their personal doings have on Chen. Others might call them idiots for not applying common sense.

Either way, knowing that outsiders are scrutinizing every move made by the members of the first family, not to mention that Chen's political rivals are eager for a chance to attack him, the Chao family should have known better. This incident has given Chen's political opponents more ammunition to attack him.

Since Chien was the one suspected of wrongdoing, she should come forward to tell her story.

The government should also implement damage-control measures. For a start, the Presidential Office should stop simply issuing press statements, and take the time to answer the media's questions concerning the incident on behalf of Chien and her family. Given the recent spate of events concerning the first family and its associates, perhaps it is time for the Presidential Office to consider hiring a public relations firm to help revamp its much-damaged public image. As Chen himself put it, the conduct of his close associates, despite not being public figures, matters greatly, given their close association with the head of state.

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