Sun, May 28, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Why recall the president?

As prosecutors worked diligently to investigate the insider-trading allegations against President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) son-in-law Chao Chien-ming (趙建銘?), People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) made a surprising suggestion on Friday -- that the president should either resign or be recalled by the legislature. While his suggestion was immediately greeted with objections from other political parties, one cannot help but wonder whether Soong has the best interests of Taiwan at heart.

Without any question, as the leader of this country, Chen should be judged in accordance with the highest ethical standards. Therefore, no one doubts that he should shoulder some degree of moral responsibility for the behavior of his family members. It is also true that no amount of apologizing from the president is enough to make up for the behavior of his family members, which if not illegal is at least immoral -- depending on the findings of the prosecutors.

However, to call for the resignation or even the recall of the president at this point is completely preposterous. From a legal standpoint, Chao has not even been formally prosecuted, let alone convicted. Even if Chao is found guilty, so far no evidence suggests that the president was even aware of what Chao is reputed to have done. Based on the facts that have come to light so far, the course of action suggested by Soong is unthinkable.

From a pragmatic standpoint, moving to recall the president now will do far more harm than good. Despite the overwhelming disapproval and even outrage over the series of scandals exposed recently, society remains relatively stable and orderly. If the president steps down abruptly, the resulting social unrest and political chaos would pose much risk for the nation.

There are less than two years left before the next presidential election. Voters have been keeping score on the performance and behavior of all political parties and politicians. The performance of Chen and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has not lived up to expectations, especially on domestic issues. The pan-blue camp has performed badly in many ways as well. Let the voters decide who they want in power through the ballot box.

It is especially noteworthy that despite the irreparable injuries inflicted upon the president's credibility and reputation, Taiwan's democracy has matured to the point that all organs of the government have continued to operate and function smoothly and independently. The most important case in point is of course the fact that Chao has been taken into custody by the prosecutors office pending a criminal investigation.

The attitude of President Chen so far, while far from sufficient to earn the forgiveness of the general public for Chao's behavior, has minimized the impact on the government caused by the investigation. He has continued to perform his regular official duties and has also asked for prosecutors and the judiciary to uphold the law.

Under the circumstances, unless the president is discovered to have had any role in the scandal, it just does not make sense to end Chen's presidency prematurely, instead of waiting for a peaceful and smooth handover of power at the next presidential election.

One can only speculate about Soong's incentive for raising such a proposal. It has been suggested that he may be trying to score brownie points for the upcoming Taipei mayoral election. If that is the case, his action is short-sighted and self-centered.

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