Sun, Jun 18, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Looking at the recall bid with a foreign eye

By Michelle Wang 王美琇

Since last week, every single statement and speech made by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has been designed to agitate pan-blue supporters and provoke the pan-greens, thus aggravating an already serious social conflict. By using the presidential recall motion with an eye to the year-end elections, Ma and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) have shown that they are quite prepared to tear this society apart.

It is a scripted replay of the unrest resulting from the assassination attempt against President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) on the eve of the 2004 presidential election. Before the pan-blues and pan-greens engage in a head-on collision, I would like to make a few observations.

For a fresh perspective, let's try looking at the situation through US eyes. The US is a mature society that has practiced democracy for more than two hundred years. The preposterous presidential recall bid proposed by the blue-camp would be unlikely to occur in the US, given that country's more mature legislature, media and society.

If a US Congressman made random accusations in the way KMT legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) has done recently, he or she would face immediate condemnation from the media and society alike, for such accusations are a serious matter that could undermine the nation. Without substantial evidence, those who make random accusations in the US really do "die a nasty death" as Ma likes to put it. Under no circumstances would the legislature seek to recall the president on the pathetic pretext that he is "allegedly involved in a scandal."

As a longstanding observer of US politics and media, I have never seen the US media make a big stink of what the first lady is wearing. How she wants to dress herself is a private matter unless the way she dresses is obviously inappropriate or connected with bribe-taking. US media and lawmakers are more interested in whether the president is competent to govern the nation than in how the first lady dresses. They supervise how the president manages foreign, economic and domestic affairs. If the president is clearly involved in any misconduct, the media and Congress will move to impeach him or her based on the evidence. Former US president Richard Nixon's downfall over the Watergate scandal is a classic example.

US politicians and citizens did not initiate impeachment proceedings against former US president Bill Clinton over his sex scandal, although the US public definitely disapproved of his behavior. In the end, Clinton remain as president until the end of his second term. The moral is, if the president did not break the law, he cannot be impeached or recalled.

There is no denying that the first family still has a lot to learn regarding how to behave themselves. However, if the media is intent on sensationalizing the matter and passing judgment, it only highlights the media's low standards and their inability to rise above political infighting.

Although many pan-green supporters are not satisfied with Chen's performance, he has not violated the law and we will not launch a recall motion against him just because the public have a bad impression. There is a set term for the presidency and the Constitution must be respected, and therefore there is no legitimacy in the presidential recall bid.

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