Sat, Jul 24, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Chen gives vice presidency weight

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A senior aide to the president said yesterday that the reason Pres-ident Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) promotes the involvement of Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) in the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) affairs is to build a new model for power-sharing between the head of state and the vice president.

"People seem to be more interested in focusing on the issue of Lu's combative personal character rather than rationally discussing the constitutional mechanism," said the aide, who asked not to be identified.

The aide said that if one looks back to the country's history, almost all of the vice presidents under former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) governments spanning five decades have been described as invisible and voiceless politicians.

"The vice president was not necessary as the successor to the presidents -- who then acted as dictators or so-called strongmen -- but were just a symbol to meet the requirements of the Constitution," the aide said.

"Now that the nation is enjoying the democratic era, the president wants to rebuild the relationships between the head of the state and his deputy. He must tell the public that the vice president should not be defined as an invisible person who is just asked to maintain silence and wait for the president's favor," the aide said.

Lu has been assigned by Chen to serve as member of the DPP's Central Standing Committee -- the party's policy-making mechanism. She also has been designated to join the party's reform committee.

Many party heavyweights said that Chen's purpose in promoting Lu is to maintain political equality among four party heavyweights, who also include Premier Yu Shyi-kun, President Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), and Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷).

"Many DPP lawmakers believe that President Chen seems to be afraid of the lame-duck effect, while the media is focusing on the issue of who is the best successor to Chen since Chen's inauguration ceremony on May 20," columnist Hu Wen-huei (胡文輝) said.

"If any one of those four persons is described as the top choice, then Chen may become a lame duck immediately and will be not able to accomplish his policies," Hu said.

Most media analysis has commented that Chen should not endeavor to manipulate the succession issue by promoting Lu and Yu to even them with Su and Hsieh, who are currently considered as having better chances of succeeding Chen than Lu and Yu.

The president's aide told the Taipei Times that Chen never considers the succession issue in his policy-making process.

"Constitutional speaking, the vice president has no concrete duties but actually the post does have extraordinary influence compared with other government positions," the aide said.

"The public should remember that President Chen had authorized the vice president to undertake many special tasks in areas such as human rights, technology research, tourism development and diplomatic affairs during the past four years.

"The president shared power with the vice president because Chen expects to build up an example for the interactions of future heads of state," the aide said.

The aide said that how much influence the post of the vice president may have depends on two elements: the vice president's personality and whether the president is willing to share power.

"No matter how many disputes may arise due to Lu's specific character, President Chen is defining that his deputy is a president-in-waiting who has obligation to participate in all fields of government and ruling party affairs to learn the experience of ruling the country," the aide said.

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