In the wake of controversy surrounding the investigation of President Chen Shui-bian's (
With less than two years left in Chen's second term, and in light of the fact that no evidence has been unearthed so far to suggest that the president has been involved in any wrongdoing, to insist that the president resign or face recall -- as suggested by the pan-blue opposition -- would likely do more harm than good to the nation.
While Taiwan has had several popular presidential elections already, and went through its first ever transfer of power in 2000, the potential impact of Chen stepping down on the next presidential election is likely to be substantial. As a young democracy, the past three presidential elections have, without exception, exacerbated social tensions within Taiwan, leaving scars that are still yet to heal. The next presidential election will have to bear the burden of this legacy, as well as the disruptions caused by the recent series of scandals involving the Presidential Office and first family. Add to this a resignation or recall of the incumbent president and the next election could well become too difficult for the nation's fledgling political institutions to handle.
The performance of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Chen has not lived up to the expectations of many people during the past six years, and no one can deny that another change in governing party is quite likely in 2008. If President Chen steps down or is recalled now, the chaos between and within the political parties that is likely to be unleashed may well damage all hope of a peaceful transfer of power in two years time. If Chen stays in office for the remainder of his term, the political parties, candidates and society in general will have more time to prepare for the turbulence of 2008.
If Chen stays in power, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (
A competitive race in which all political parties are in top form is best for Taiwan. For the DPP, the next two years present a second chance to regroup and compete with the KMT as an equal. With the president handing most of the country's executive responsibilities over to Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), the DPP and Su have another chance to prove themselves to the people. Chen's decision last Wednesday has pretty much ended the race within the DPP to become the party's presidential candidate. As the person calling the shots over the next two years, Su will likely leave his competitors trailing far behind.
The criticisms against President Chen for "illegitimately" releasing his powers are unfair, to say the least. There is no clear delineation of powers between the president and the premier in the current Constitution. The Constitution gives Taiwan a government that is neither a pure presidential nor a pure Cabinet system. Precedent has dictated most of the president's powers. However, Ma has much to worry about with this shift, because once this norm is established, it will have an impact on the division of power between the next president and his or her premier.
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