Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) heavyweight and Premier Frank Hsieh (
Since being promoted to premier from his previous post, Kaohsiung City mayor, Hsieh has lost two long-term allies -- former vice minister of the interior Lin Yung-chien (林永堅) and former Taiwan Water Corporation (TWC) chairman Lee Wen-liang (李文良) -- who have stepped down to take responsibility for various political mistakes.
In addition, Government Information Office (GIO) Minister Pasuya Yao's (
Lin was Hsieh's deputy when Hsieh was mayor in Kaohsiung. His straight personality was not popular among the public or the press, but he won Hsieh's trust and was almost always promoted whenever Hsieh needed help. When Hsieh became premier, Lin was immediately promoted to vice minister of the interior.
Lin first became a focus of the press in April, when he proposed lowering the limit on money transfers through automatic teller machines (ATMs) from NT$100,000 (US$2,990) a day to NT$10,000 a day. His proposal was immediately criticized and Hsieh withdrew the measure within a day, and then re-announced the new limit as NT$30,000 a day to ease public criticism.
But Lin became the target of attacks again and eventually left his post to take responsibility for police forces' handling of violent clashes that occurred between pan-blue and the pan-green camp supporters at CKS International Airport when former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰) was departing for China on April 26, in which 15 people were injured. The police forces come under the supervision of the Ministry of the Interior.
Lee, meanwhile, shares some similarities with Lin in his background and relationship with the premier. Lee was director-general of Kaohsiung City Government's Economic Affairs Bureau during Hsieh's mayoral term and was well-known for his discretion.
In addition, his connections with politicians from other parties and local business leaders were also recognized to be an asset by Hsieh, so he was promoted to head the TWC when Hsieh became premier.
Lee, however, stepped down to take political responsibility for problems in supplying water to parts of Taoyuan a few months ago.
GIO head Yao, meanwhile, has come under criticism after several missteps. His first mistake came when traveling with the president to the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Fiji in May, when the GIO failed to help the press transmit footage of the trip back to Taiwan by satellite.
At the time he was not blamed though, as he was new to the post.
But during a trip with the president last month he was reported to have slacked off, and was said to have gone drinking with a stewardess one night and fooled around with the president's nurses on the beach.
During a presidential press conference, he was caught taking a nap. Afterward, he gave inaccurate information to the press about the president's policies and comments regarding a funding project for Central American allies.
Amid the scandals, Yao has begun to face criticism from within the DPP camp. DPP Legislator Wang Shih-chien (王世堅), an ally of Hsieh, complained about Yao's performance and asked the premier to relieve him of his duties.
Yao, however, made the news again earlier this week when the list of nominees for the Golden Bell Awards, which he controls, was leaked to the press.
Although Yao has more than once said that these incidents were "misunderstandings" and insisted he will not quit, they have damaged the Cabinet's image.
In addition to his own Cabinet members' controversial performances, Hsieh has been hit hard by the Kaohsiung City MRT project scandal, in which President Chen Shui-bian (
Hsieh and DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (
Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) has implied that maybe the "entire" Cabinet should be reshuffled before the local-government elections in December.
Opposition politicians have weighed in as well.
"I think Hsieh should seriously consider whether he should make some adjustments to his Cabinet team if he is really serious about the 2008 presidential election," KMT Legislator Hung Hsiu-chu (
"He [Hsieh] will definitely lose the trust and support of DPP heavyweights if he keeps letting his Cabinet members fool around like this," she added.
DPP Legislator Julian Kuo (郭正亮) took a slightly different angle.
"I think he [Hsieh] has spent too much time and paid too much attention to the 2008 presidential election," Kuo said. "That is why he did not even know that the screws holding together the entire machine were loose. And now that they are loose, he does not know how to screw them back in."
DPP Legislator Tu Wen-ching (
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