Wed, Nov 15, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Difficult choices lie ahead for Taiwan

By Chen Yi-shen 陳儀深

Indictments on corruption and forgery charges in connection with the handling of the Presidential Office's "state affairs fund" were handed down on Nov. 3. Although President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) offered an explanation in a televised speech on Nov. 5, he said he would be cleared and he reiterated his vow to step down voluntarily if his wife is found guilty of corruption. But given that Chen insisted on his innocence, why would he need to make such "extralegal" concessions?

One possibility is that although Chen felt he really has a reason to avoid explaining the anomalies in the fund reimbursements, he felt he had to make concessions because of moral and social pressures. Another possibility is that high-ranking Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials are distancing themselves from him as they want to safeguard the party. If this is the case, then it was the logic of power that forced concessions from Chen.

These two possibilities are connected with the indictment. Although it includes flaws spotted by former Presidential Office secretary-general Chen Shih-meng (陳師孟), former DPP New Tide faction covener Chang Wei-chia (張維嘉) and others, it includes accusations of forgery and falsification of evidence in addition to corruption, which will be difficult to explain.

Supporters may try to defend Chen by blaming loopholes in the judicial system or even a conspiracy, but they must recognize that the law has the final word. As to the question of whether "state affairs fund" money was used for secret diplomacy, Chen has not given any clear explanation yet, regardless of what he would base such an explanation on.

As a result, political pressure will linger, and the remainder of Chen's term will be tortuous. The scandal could influence next year's legislative elections and the 2008 presidential election. This means that attempts by high-ranking DPP officials such as Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and Taipei mayoral candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) to distance themselves from Chen should not be construed as the pursuit of selfish interests, as they may also serve to guarantee the DPP's legitimacy.

In-depth reporting over the past few days has revealed staggering interaction among high-ranking government officials, and even the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) has reversed its decision to support the third presidential recall motion -- an action that someone called "safeguarding Chen at the cost of damaging the party's own image."

The problem is that high-ranking DPP officials want more than just Chen's agreement to step down if his wife is convicted. Their demands also include allowing the third recall motion and then final approval in a public referendum.

How can Su support the possibility of a third recall motion, but not the TSU? How can Hsieh distance himself from Chen, but not from the "no longer officially existing" New Tide faction?

If TSU Taipei mayoral candidate Clara Chou (周玉蔻) understood this, she would not complain so much about being pushed into a corner. Chou's recent public letter attacking the DPP [for being more corrupt and incompetent than the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)] and other negative campaign materials have scared away potential supporters.

Similarly, pro-Chen social groups should stop and think about their goals, rather than rashly falling back on nationalism.

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