Mon, Aug 21, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Chen's 'practices' cause his suffering

By Chiu Hei-yuan 瞿海源

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) chose to give a speech in response to his current dilemma at the Ketagalan Institute, which he founded. Whether in terms of formality or content, this failed to show the magnanimity and wisdom behooving a president. However, Chen's insistence that a decision on whether or not he should step should be based on the Constitution is clearly the key to his resistance to any form of pressure, particularly extralegal, to force him to step down. This is something that forces supporting a bid to oust Chen should keep in mind.

Chen's setting up a school to train national leaders followed in the footsteps of past authoritarian leaders, and Ketagalan has not managed to train any new talent. His choice to give the speech at his own political school was the most risk-free decision possible, and also the most authoritarian. This demonstrates that Chen only has the power of a president, not the demeanor.

As to the content of his speech, Chen mentioned national identity, political strife, transitional justice and the constitutional system, which indeed are difficult issues. His speech made sense, but the problem is that in more than six years as president, Chen has done almost nothing to solve these key issues, and has even become a source of problems himself. With his falling prestige, will he be able to accomplish anything in the remaining years of his presidency?

Chen talked of "partisan political fighting" in order to continue to use the Constitution as the basis of his refusal to step down.

He said that if a president does not to a good job, then the Constitution offers express provisions, including recall, impeachment or even a vote of no confidence in the Cabinet, all of which are very important parts of the constitutional order. He also said that if the president allegedly breaks the law or makes any mistakes, the judicial system is the correct venue for any investigation. Clearly, this is an important line of defense for Chen when responding to the political crisis and the attempts to force him out of office.

This line of defense is not unique to Chen: it also applies to democracy and the constitutional system. No one can say that Chen's insistence on following the constitutional system is wrong. However, several media outlets have persisted in putting pressure on Chen to step down. Many "deep throats" have exposed trivial matters related to his administration. These muckrakers have made a large number of sensational allegations about the president, most of which have turned out to be false.

These "information providers" and media outlets have ganged up and will not stop until they have destroyed Chen. This storm might eventually break through Chen's defensive lines, but will still have to withstand the test of the constitutional system.

Chen has used "the problem of transitional justice," to explain away his own improper behavior and find a positive explanation, but this is the wrong approach.

On the other hand, Chen has admitted that he has followed old "habits and irregular practices," and this is the main reason that he has been tagged as corrupt.

Drawing conclusions from this painful experience, Chen said that he hoped to be able to build a good system that everyone in Taiwan could rely on. This is the correct way to deal with the situation.

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