Everyone knows that the pan-blue camp's motion to recall President Chen Shui-bian (
The objectives of such a vote would be two-fold: To vent pan-blue supporters' anger in the likely event that the recall bill falls flat on its face, and bring down Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) -- at present the only potential presidential candidate to pose a threat to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) -- restore balance and incite a power struggle among the four major figures of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) -- namely Su, Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), former Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), and DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun.
The more the DPP is in disarray, the less its members will be able to put on the facade of unity to single out their best presidential candidate. Under such circumstances, Ma would have a better chance of winning the upcoming presidential elections.
Even though kicking Su out of office would be an illegitimate move, pan-blue supporters believe that regardless of what they do to maintain Ma's lead in opinion polls, Ma will still enjoy greater gain than loss.
In contrast to the KMT, the DPP seems to rest its faith on chance. The DPP's thinking is that as long as it keeps reminding the KMT of its intent to dismiss the legislature if push comes to shove, the pan-blues will not dare to overstep their bounds.
The idea is that all legislators are opposed to premature legislative elections, and especially that KMT legislators whose chances of winning re-election are slim will oppose it to the bitter end. It is also thought that southern legislators are not necessarily willing to dance to the tune of those based in northern Taiwan.
Furthermore, the fact that People First Party (PFP) legislators would be further disadvantaged under the single-member district system all but guarantees that they will not risk pushing the envelope too much.
Such thinking contains at least three blind spots:
First, as long as the recall motion can sustain sufficient momentum, the KMT will be able to exert pressure on each legislator who decides to oppose the recall. Even the PFP, which first stoked the public outrage that lead to the motion's launch, does not dare to offend the KMT.
Also, PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) may end up forsaking his party's legislators' interests in favor of his own campaign in the year-end Taipei mayoral election. These considerations may be the basis for Soong's statement that "if the presidential recall cannot be carried out, then toppling the Cabinet will be considered."
Second, given the KMT's flexible nomination system, it will not be difficult for the party to nominate legislators in each district prior to a vote of no confidence in the Cabinet. Additionally, Ma can use the rewards that a future presidency would make possible as an incentive when coordinating pan-blue legislators.
The KMT's current agenda is reportedly to give priority to nominating incumbent legislators, and placing those who are not nominated in a district on the legislator-at-large list. If this holds true, then the 73 single-seat districts and the 32 legislators-at-large seats would be sufficient to accommodate all 79 KMT legislative seats. That even leaves a few seats for negotiations with the PFP.
The last point, which is also the major blind spot in the DPP's reasoning, is that if the KMT cannot come to terms with the arrangement of its legislative candidates in the new electoral districts, it may still propose a completely risk-free bill to topple the Cabinet based on its belief that the DPP government would not dare dismiss the legislature. This thinking is perfectly reasonable.
In fact, DPP legislators are as unwilling to call for premature legislative elections as are pan-blue legislators. The DPP's inflexible primary election system limits the party headquarters' ability to coordinate nominations between different electoral districts, nor will it have the chance to use its role after the 2008 presidential election as a bargaining chip.
Moreover, the DPP's complicated faction system has sapped many DPP legislators' motivation to give up the last year of their legislative term in order to mount a defense for Su.
Some DPP legislators may even be happy to see the president nominate a new premier if the opposition were to topple the Cabinet. This thinking may also be in line with the thinking of Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) legislators.
While on the topic of dissolving the Cabinet, the KMT and DPP are engaged in a game of truth or dare. If the KMT believes that the DPP does not have the guts to dismiss the legislature, then its motion to topple the Cabinet will be pushed through to the bitter end. But as of today, Yu is the only DPP member to say that the DPP will ask the president to dissolve the legislature if the Cabinet is toppled. This is in fact his personal recommendation and it might not win the party's support. Nor is it certain that it will be carried out by the president.
So far, the DPP has not started to coordinate legislative districts in response to the pan-blue's likely attempt to topple the Cabinet, nor has it devised a way of replacing its current lengthy primary election process with one that can nominate candidates for every district in a matter of a couple of weeks.
The DPP's central standing committee, the sole body with the ability to make binding decisions for the party, is not planning to pass a resolution in support of Yu's recommendation.
All signs give the impression that Yu is just posturing, and that if the Cabinet is toppled, the DPP will obediently nominate a new premier.
Liang Wen-chieh is former deputy director of the DPP's Policy Research and Coordinating Committee.
Translated by Lin Ya-ti
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