President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is hosting dinner parties at his presidential residence for DPP lawmakers in a bid to thank them for their hard work during last week's special legislative session as well as to discuss tactics ahead of next year's presidential elections in March.
Starting yesterday, Chen, in his capacity as the DPP chairman will sit down with some 70 lawmakers during a three-day gathering at his official residence.
Chen will congratulate legislators for pushing through four economic-stimulus bills in the legislature's three-day extraordinary session which ended last Thursday.
A number of legislators from the TSU, the DPP's closest ally in view of their ideological similarity, will also be invited to dine with the president.
TSU Legislator Huang Chung-yung (黃宗源) yesterday said the Presidential Office had contacted his party to invite all 13 TSU lawmakers to dinner.
Huang also said that some KMT lawmakers were on the president's guest list.
It is widely believed the KMT lawmakers invited are from the so-called "localization faction," namely the KMT's legislative faction E-Generation Alliance led by KMT Legislator Shyh Jong-shyong (徐中雄).
The faction carries the banner of the "localization drive," which was advocated by former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), now the TSU's spiritual leader.
KMT Legislator Chen Hung-chang (陳宏昌), one of the more outspoken members of the alliance, yesterday said, "We haven't received any information from the Presidential Office regarding the dinners yet. But if the purpose of President Chen's invitation is simply to cozy up to us, he is wasting his time. After all, there is still a party difference between us."
However, Chen added, "If the president extends the invitation to us for our advice on national policy and domestic economic and political situations, we could actually sit down for a good talk and we'd be happy to offer our perspectives -- something different from the DPP lawmakers' -- to the president."
"Under these circumstances, I believe our participation should be viewed as non-partisan," Chen said.
The presidential dinners are seen by DPP lawmakers as an opportunity to offer their advice on presidential campaign strategies.
DPP Legislator Wei Ming-ku (魏明谷) said, "Though it's just a routine gathering with the president, topics related to the presidential election will certainly be discussed."
Wei said he will suggest to the president that he reinforces the structure of the presidential campaign while another DPP lawmaker, Lai Ching-te (賴清德), a physician, said he will offer opinions from the medical profession about policy reform.
Meanwhile, DPP Secretary-General Chang Chun-hsiung (
Chang said, "We have polls showing that sixty percent of the public supports holding the referendum together with the presidential election to reduce costs."
DPP legislative caucus whip Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) yesterday said, "We don't know yet whether the referendum law will be passed in the next legislative session. If it is not passed, we will hold an advisory referendum based on an administrative decree."