Thu, Nov 16, 2006 - Page 8 News List

It's time for President Chen to take some leave

By Chu Yen-kui 朱言貴

On Nov. 3, Chief Prosecutor Eric Chen (陳瑞仁) indicted first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) and three top presidential aides on embezzlement, forgery and perjury charges in connection with the handling of the state affairs fund. Once President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) steps down, he may also be prosecuted.

However, on Nov. 6, President Chen decided to rebut Eric Chen's indictments, compelling certain outspoken Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators to take the initiative. They advised the president that he should take a leave of absence and suspend his presidential duties to resolve the political crisis facing the nation. I believe their suggestion is quite feasible.

Politics is the art of compromise. Despite the current situation, the president still has many loyal supporters. The last thing that people in this country want to see is the nation's political situation slipping out of control. Therefore, both the president's followers and opponents should now try to defuse the situation by negotiating a deal. This might be helpful to finding the smallest common denominator that would help avoid a situation where the nation continues to tread water.

Although a member of the president's family has been charged, Chen Shui-bian still enjoys presidential immunity to criminal prosecution.

Nonetheless, his moral character is now open to question and he is thus no longer qualified as a leader. It is therefore inappropriate for the president to remain in his post, and he will have difficulty earning the respect of the public.

That is, I think it would be perfectly feasible if the president were willing to temporarily relinquish his presidential duties and let the judiciary reach a conclusion before he decides on his next move.

This is not to gloss things over. President Chen still maintains his appeal to the deep greens. The pan-blue legislators will have to seek cooperation with the reformists in the DPP to break fresh ground and create a solid majority in the legislature to continue reform in the post-Chen era.

Both the pan-green and pan-blue camps still have certain misgivings about Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) succeeding President Chen. Article 49 of the Constitution stipulates that if the president for any reason is unable to attend to the duties of his or her office, the vice president shall act for the president.

If the president were to take a temporary leave of absence, thus voluntarily suspending his presidential duties, all constitutional requirements would be fulfilled and it would help reduce political unrest. I believe most Taiwanese would find this suggestion acceptable.

Chu Yen-kui is a law lecturer at National Open University.

Translated by Daniel Cheng

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