Fri, Nov 10, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Chen crisis not a political football

By Liu Kuan-teh 劉冠德

In his face-the-nation press conference last Sunday, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) refused to accept Chief Prosecutor Eric Chen's (陳瑞仁) indictment of first lady Wu Shui-jen (吳淑珍) and three presidential aides on various charges related to the use of the Presidential Office "state affairs fund."

In addition to offering new explanations, Chen pledged to step down if the first lady were found guilty on the corruption and forgery charges in the first trial, without waiting for the entire trial to run its course.

In Taiwan's divided society, in which half of the nation's voters do not trust him, Chen's aim was clearly to calm Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) supporters. That explains why he placed more emphasis on why he lacked a motive for embezzling NT$14.8 million (US$451,000) over the past five years as well as complaining about a "lack of due process" by the prosecutor in not giving the accused more time to defend themselves.

As for the mysterious uses of the "state affairs fund," Chen admitted that he had used the fund to pay a lobbying firm and Chinese democracy activists. However, he refused to disclose more details for the sake of national security.

It's true that an indictment does not necessarily imply guilt. We should let the judiciary decide. However, the indictment was no doubt a huge blow to Chen's already fragile leadership and the DPP's declining popularity.

The first and direct impact is on the DPP's prospects in the mayoral elections in Taipei and Kaohsiung. Despite the DPP's decision to support Chen's post-indictment elaboration, some DPP legislators have openly asked for Chen's prompt resignation or the temporary suspension of his duties as president. The DPP's Taipei mayoral candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), in several of his statements after the announcement of the prosecutor's decision, has kept a safe distance from the politically sabotaged president.

The DPP's ally the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) displayed an even more ambiguous reaction to the dramatic issue. TSU Chairman Shu Chin-chiang (蘇進強) publicly announced the party's support for the "third recall motion" against Chen after the first lady's indictment. However, the TSU changed its stance of echoing the pan-blue camp's recall move after Chen's explanation to deep-green supporters seemed to meet with success.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), under Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) leadership, has tried to take advantage of the DPP's declining morale by mobilizing supporters on the streets to build campaign momentum.

Ma's move was heavily criticized by both the People First Party (PFP) and the "anti-President Chen" activists for applying double standards by incorporating an "anti-corruption" sentiment into the mayoral elections while granting the KMT permission to hold the parades. The KMT's attempt to launch the third recall bid against Chen is aimed at splitting the DPP while regaining the political momentum of the anti-corruption movement. Given the political rivalry between PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) and Ma, the extent to which each party will utilize the recall motion to gain individual points remains to be seen.

Though it is up to the court to decide whether Chen and his family and staff have committed any crime, the alleged misuse of the fund is no doubt a disgrace to Taiwan's democracy. But if we apply the same standard to all politicians in Taiwan, there should not be any exception. For example, Ma's controversial transfer of money from his "mayoral office fund" to his private account also reflects a possible misuse or even corrupt practice.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top