Sun, Aug 20, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Ma's new rule for a new friend

The Taipei City Government has granted permission to former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) and his supporters to stage a round-the-clock sit-in in front of the Presidential Office for one month. Shih's aim is to pressure President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) into stepping down over a series of scandals and alleged corruption implicating members of the first family.

The decision has provoked anger and skepticism because the Taipei City Government has never before allowed rallies of this nature to extend beyond a late evening deadline.

Attacks on this special treatment for Shih, of course, will not hurt Shih's rally in garnering more media attention.

Of more interest is whether the campaign can attract support from the wider community of pan-green supporters and civic groups. If the purpose of Shih's rally is to convince Chen to step down of his own accord, rather than provide a stage for Shih as a comeback politician, then the last thing that Shih would want is to have his rally too closely associated with the pan-blue camp.

Most pan-green supporters are disappointed with Chen, and among these are some voices calling for him to step down. However, because of the long history of antagonism between the pan-green and pan-blue camps, pan-green supporters tend to back down or at least hold great reservations about giving support to causes if they are deemed to be "pan-blue" activities.

Shih's rally does seem to be gathering a level of support from the general public. But the question is: who exactly? If the bulk of support comes from supporters of the pan-blue camp, then this is hardly constructive in terms of making Chen step down. The reason that Chen is able to continue his presidency is that most in the pan-green camp do not support his resignation or removal.

However, in view of the treatment granted to Shih by the Taipei City Government -- interpretable as special treatment from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) after he met Shih to discuss the campaign -- it is hard for skeptical observers not to wonder how close the ties are between this rally and the KMT.

Making the situation more complicated for Shih and Ma is criticism from within the pan-blue camp, and the People First Party (PFP) in particular. The PFP pointed out that two years ago Ma ordered Taipei police to disperse an anti-Chen rally led by then KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) in the wake of the disputed 2004 presidential election. It has been said that the treatment extended to his pan-blue comrades by Ma at the time was a lot less favorable than the treatment now being extended to Shih. The PFP certainly has a case.

Hoping to make hay out of all of this, the Taiwan Solidarity Union's Taipei mayoral candidate, Clara Chou (周玉蔻), has applied to the Taipei City Government to hold a month-long, round-the-clock rally in front of the Taipei City Hall. This, of course, puts the government in something of a spot. It would have a lot of explaining to do to irate DPP councilors if Chou does not receive equal treatment.

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