Sun, Jun 20, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Chen maneuvers to step down as DPP chairman

AMENDMENT The president thinks that resigning from his post as DPP boss will help him to appear impartial to the opposition and facilitate constitutional reforms

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is seeking the authority to relinquish his concurrent post as chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in an apparent move to solicit cross-party support for constitutional reform.

Proposed amendments to the DPP charter would allow Chen the option of handing the chairman's post to one of three vice chairmen with the approval of the DPP's Central Executive Committee.

The amendment appears to lay the groundwork for Chen's withdrawal from party structures and the cultivation of a perception of impartiality in regard to constitutional reforms, which are scheduled to be completed by the end of Chen's second term in 2008.

DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) on Friday proposed an amendment to Article 15 of the DPP charter which would allow the chairman, if also serving as president, to appoint one vice chairman among three to replace him.

The current rule, passed in 2002 in an attempt to step up cooperation between the Presidential Office and the party headquarters, stipulates that if the DPP is in power, the president should serve concurrently as party chairman. It also says that if the DPP is in opposition, the chairman shall be elected by all party members. The rule also provides for the appointment of up to three vice chairmen.

Up until now, however, the DPP has not appointed any members to these posts.

The revision will be sent to the party's national congress on July 18 for review and approval.

DPP Deputy Secretary-General Chung Chia-pin (鍾佳濱) yesterday said one of the most important functions of the amendment was to allow Chen to remain neutral while soliciting and integrating opinions on constitutional reform from across the entire political spectrum.

"With the goal of reforming the Constitution, we need to think about how to adjust the party's role so that it can become a helping force rather than an obstruction," Chung said.

The proposal, if passed, will reverse the trend toward simultaneous operation of DPP and state affairs, an area which the DPP co-ordinated poorly in the first two years of Chen's first term.

Clear line

Chung said that a young party such as the DPP must seek to adapt to meet the needs of a changing society.

"The party has always thought about how to draw a clear and appropriate line between the operations of the party and the state," he said. "Several factors may come into play -- such as fears that the DPP might follow in the authoritarian footsteps of the KMT [Chinese Nationalist Party], tying the party and state together to maintain smooth operations between them."

When asked if the amendments might lead to excessive presidential power, Chung said that would not necessarily be the case because presidential candidates were still subject to the DPP's nomination process and approval from the DPP national congress.

The amendment was meant to provide Chen with a degree of flexibility to do what he thinks is necessary in the best interests of the party, which was to remove himself as chairman, Chung said.

Successor

Speculation on Chen's successor as DPP chairman has largely focused on three men: Chen's chief of staff, Presidential Office Secretary-General Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), Premier Yu Shyi-kun and Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷).

But Su, thought to be Chen's No. 1 choice for the chairman's job, said on Friday he would withdraw from elections for a seat on the DPP Central Standing Committee. The committee is the highest decision-making body of the party.

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