President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) wants to meet with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to exchange opinions on policies and systems of government, the Presidential Office said yesterday.
While Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (
Ma said that the government's structure and policies must be discussed before he or his party would consider forming a new Cabinet.
Meetings between Taiwanese political figures -- routine in many democracies -- are often hyped by the local media, which offer extensive coverage of the event and the often tedious negotiations preceding them. This leads to a variety of contradictory statements from the parties involved as they seek to hash out the terms under which a meeting can take place.
For instance, the Presidential Office denied a report published yesterday in the Chinese-language United Daily News, which said that the president would like to meet with Ma to discuss forming a new Cabinet.
But Wang had a different view of the situation. He said he spoke to Ma on Tuesday night by telephone. The first topic they discussed, according to Wang, was the campaign initiated by KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) to recall the president.
Following the discussion of the recall campaign, Wang said that he then relayed the president's desire to talk about the Cabinet reorganization with Ma.
"When [Ma and I] talked on the telephone [on Tuesday] night, I told him that the president is interested in talking with him about the Cabinet reshuffle, and he told me that he would think about it," Wang told reporters before chairing another round of cross-party negotiations on the government's budget.
Ma acknowledged that Wang had told him on Tuesday that the president was interested in talking with him about the Cabinet reshuffle, and said that all decisions should only be made by following the Constitution.
"The KMT's stance on this matter remains the same. The government has to discuss the system of government, its policies and then personnel, in that order ... The meeting would be meaningless if talks focused only on personnel," he said yesterday morning at KMT headquarters.
"The president has expressed the interest in exchanging views on the Cabinet reshuffle with opposition leaders on various occasions," Wang said. "However, it is different from asking Ma to lead the rearranged government."
But the government later seemed open to a discussion of a Cabinet reshuffle between Ma and the president.
"The president wants to express his friendliness to Ma again. If Ma would like to add other issues, such as the establishment of new Cabinet, to the discussion, we can arrange that," Chen Wen-tsung (
Acting Presidential Office Secretary-General Ma Yung-cheng (馬永成) yesterday said that it would be a good thing for the president to have the opportunity to discuss the Cabinet with opposition leaders, because it would be conducive to establishing a more well-thought-out constitutional system.
"We see very few constitutional precedents over the years regarding different systems of government," Ma Yung-cheng said. "It is helpful to discuss the matter with opposition leaders."