Thu, Sep 30, 2004 - Page 3 News List

James Soong makes a last stand

POLITICAL REALITY Soong's recognition of the president and his attempt to enter the legislature by the back door point to a man desperate to retain credibility, analysts said

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Political observers yesterday said the attempt by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to deliver a state-of-the-nation address in the Legislative Yuan has given him the upper hand over the pan-blue opposition.

"The move has resulted in pan-blue politicians knocking over their own claim that Chen's presidency is illegitimate," said Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒), a political commentator and editor-in-chief of Contemporary Monthly magazine.

Since the night of the presidential election on March 20, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-People First Party (PFP) alliance has challenged the fairness of the election result. The pan-blue ticket lost by a narrow margin to Chen and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮).

Brandishing the slogan "no truth, no president," the KMT-PFP alliance has filed suits to nullify the result and is now waiting on the Taiwan High Court to deliver a verdict on the matter early next month.

At a news conference on Monday, one day after Chen expressed his willingness to deliver a state-of-the-nation report, PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) declared that he was willing to replace one of his party's legislators-at-large to debate crucial national issues with Chen.

"The very moment that Soong expressed his intention to become a legislator-at-large and debate Chen, Soong repudiated his denial of the legitimacy of Chen's presidency," Chin said.

For the first time since the election, Soong had used the words "President Chen." Soong said that "although there is controversy surrounding President Chen's status, the fact that he is exercising presidential power means that I cannot but accept the political reality of this status."

Noting the recent promulgation of the March 19 Shooting Truth Investigation Special Committee Statute (三一九槍擊事件真相調查特別委員會條例), Chin said that Soong's response was not the first time that pan-blue politicians had contradicted themselves over Chen's legitimacy.

The opposition-controlled legislature earlier this month passed the pan-blue version of a bill forming a committee investigating the March 19 assassination attempt on Chen and Lu.

"When the Legislative Yuan forwarded the statute to Chen for his signature in his capacity as president before promulgating the bill into law, the pan-blue politicians had in effect acknowledged that they recognized Chen's status as head of state," Chin said.

Chen's attempt to address the legislature also seems to have driven a wedge between the PFP and the KMT, which appeared divided on this issue, political commentators said.

Contrary to Soong's eagerness to become a legislator and see Chen make the address, the KMT said that Chen had no right to make a report as president until the committee had determined the legitimacy of his presidency.

According to the Additional Articles of the Constitution, when the legislature convenes each year, it may extend an invitation to the president to make a state-of-the-nation address.

The Constitution does not, however, require the president to answer questions from lawmakers on the floor. Against this backdrop, the opposition-controlled legislature did not invite Chen to deliver a report during his first term.

While the PFP has been enthusiastic over the issue, the KMT remains cool about the speech, stating that such an address should not be held before legislative elections in December.

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