Tue, May 30, 2006 - Page 3 News List

All eyes on the president as he faces his latest political crisis

STRATEGY Much depends on how President Chen Shui-bian responds to the PFP's recall campaign, a move which analysts said was unlikely to succeed, except perhaps as a publicity stunt

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) may be facing one of the bigger political crises of his presidency after his son-in-law, Chao Chien-ming (趙建銘), was taken into custody for alleged involvement in an insider trading scandal.

With the People First Party (PFP) legislative caucus working on a campaign to recall the president and seeking support from its political ally the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the public is watching what Chen will do next.

Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明), an assistant research fellow in political science at Academia Sinica, said that there were two things Chen could do, first of which is to consider reorganizing his inner circle, or at least infusing it with some new blood to improve his own image.

Hsu was referring to one of Chen's close aides, Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General Ma Yung-cheng (馬永成), who has been dogged by allegations of political and financial irregularities.

Chen's second option, Hsu said, was to consider abolishing the presidential advisory system, which has long been criticized by opposition parties.

Since the threshold for having the president recalled is relatively high, Hsu said it was unlikely that the recall campaign would succeed, as the odds of winning the backing of both the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the public were slim.

"It is just a political gesture aimed at pacifying pan-blue supporters and setting an issue for PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) in the year-end Taipei mayoral election," Hsu said.

A motion to recall the president would need the signatures of at least one-quarter, or 55, of the Legislative Yuan's members, as well as the consent of two-thirds of all legislative members, pending final approval by half of the nation's eligible voters.

In a bid to increase its chances of success, the PFP caucus yesterday said that it did not rule out cooperating with KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中).

Ting on Saturday claimed that the motion he had instigated had already gained the endorsement of 103 legislators, surpassing the constitutional threshold.

Hsu said that he did not think Chen would give up easily.

"I suspect that he would temporarily keep a low profile, but would do whatever he could to turn things around if the opportunity arose," he said.

Although Chen's popularity has dropped and his credibility is being questioned, Hsu said that he believed Chen would continue pushing constitutional reform in the remaining two years of his term, because most lawmakers are in favor of constitutional amendments despite their differences on what needs to be changed and how it should be changed.

Chen Yi-shen (陳儀深), deputy chairman of the Northern Taiwan Society, agreed that the president might lie low for a while, but would likely take advantage of suitable circumstances during the remainder of his presidency.

He called on the president to set his priorities straight and beware making more mistakes.

Chen Yi-shen said that he did not expect to see any dramatic change in government policies.

"I don't think there will be any `last-minute homerun,' but [the president] still stands a chance of resuscitating his sagging approval rating if he can manage to redeem the party's core values and secure its support base," he said.

Commenting on some DPP members' recent call on the president to share power with other senior party members or delegate power to Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), Chen Yi-shen said that this was not the first time the call has been made.

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