Wed, Jun 23, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Chen's aides detail reform plan foulup

OH, THE IRONY The president intended to serve as an example of sincere and responsible party reform, but aides say their errors left the boss with egg on his face

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) aides yesterday said their inappropriate communication to party leaders was to blame for the public's misunderstanding about his decision to leave the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairmanship.

"President Chen is sincere in launching a series of party reforms; however, he is very displeased that his goodwill has been interpreted as an intention to expand personal authority," said an aide close to Chen.

"We must admit that those misunderstandings were made possible by two mistakes. One was that we, the president's staff, failed to precisely convey the president's idea, and second, that some party leaders tried to flatter the president," said the aide.

"The president therefore complained bitterly that the guy who lost in the (presidential) election still refuses to step down (from the chairmanship), while the person who won the election displays sincere intent to leave the post but then has been criticized for enlarging his personal power," the aide said.

National Security Council Secretary General Chiou I-jen (邱義仁), formerly secretary general of the Presidential Office staff, said on Monday that he should be blamed for causing the misunderstanding because he was the one Chen authorized to propose amending the ruling party's charter months ago.

"The president had told me in April that he had considered relinquishing his position as chairman, and he assigned me to negotiate with party leaders and draw up a proposal for July's National Party Congress," Chiou said.

"However, since I was designated to serve as secretary general of the National Security Council on May 20, I was busy in my new job and completely forgot the assignment," he said.

Chiou said that on June 18, one month before the congress and also the deadline for proposing any amendments for inclusion on the congress agenda, Chen asked whether the draft amendment regarding the chairmanship was accomplished, and "we found that no one had taken on the duty.

"So I immediately coordinated with the president's staff and DPP legislative caucus leaders to proceed with the amendment," Chiou said, "and the president's instructions were clear -- he must step down from the chairmanship and return to the role of an unbiased and nonpartisan head of state in order to facilitate upcoming reform projects," said Chiou.

"He did not ask to create any mechanism to allow him to directly appoint a new chairman," Chiou said.

According to president's aide, Chiou's original idea was to amend the party charter to allow all members of the Central Executive Committee to elect from one to three vice-chairmen to succeed Chen.

"Then a senior party leader immediately contacted two DPP legislators, the legislative caucus whip, Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), and New Tide leader Hung Chi-chang (洪奇昌); they both mapped out their proposals," said the aide.

"Hung's proposal advocated the same idea as Chiou, but Ker's proposal directly suggested that the new chairman should be appointed by the president," the aide said.

The aide said that some senior party leaders adopted Ker's stance and that this regrettably misled the media and public to believe that, in the aide's words, "Chen wants to get rid of the party affairs but still tried to control the party machine as a puppet."

Though Chen's staff pointed fingers at middlemen for fawning on the president, more party members expressed their anger with the Presidential Office for failing to precisely express Chen's thinking.

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