Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday made clear that he will not be joining the sit-in protest to oust President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) today, as he urged the protest organizers to keep the demonstration peaceful.
Ma, who also serves as Taipei Mayor, said he would give protesters freedom as enshrined in the assembly and parade laws, but such freedom will be given only on the premise that the demonstration is held peacefully.
"If the sit-in turns violent, the legitimacy of the movement would be gone ? So I have called for a peaceful protest. It's not just because of public safety concerns," Ma said yesterday before presiding over a municipal meeting at Taipei City Hall.
While declining to confirm whether or not he will greet the protesters at the sit-in, Ma said he will hold a press conference this afternoon to express the KMT's position on the demonstration, and will "express my support for the movement in an appropriate way."
Ma said that a second recall motion initiated by the pan-green camp would be the most practical way to force Chen's resignation, rather than through a street protest.
"If the motion was initiated by the pan-blue camp, the result would be the same as the June's first attempt," Ma said. "But if it was launched by the pan-green camp which was considering the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) future, then it would be positive for both the DPP and the country."
In response to a story in the Chinese-language news magazine the China Times Weekly that claimed Shih Ming-teh (施明德), the organizer of the sit-in, would push for a Cabinet system following the demonstration, Ma said that now was not the right time to launch more constitutional amendments.
"I am not against either a Cabinet or presidential system, but either one would require large-scale constitutional amendments ... We only made a round of constitutional amendments last year and I do not agree with another round of amendments for now," he said.
In other developments, Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) said yesterday that she had not prepared to succeed the embattled president, and was only prepared to assist him.
Lu made the remarks while on an inspection tour in Chiayi City, amid calls by some for her to make preparations to succeed Chen should he step down over a spate of corruption cases involving his family members and senior aides.
Regarding today's mass sit-in protest, Lu said that as Taiwan was a democratic country, the government would respect the rights of the people to express their views, and hoped the protests would end peacefully.
Lu appealed to protesters to express their views within the parameters of the law.
"The whole world will be watching the sit-in protest [today]," Lu said, "and the way it is handled will be a gauge of the maturity of the nation's democracy and the rule of law."
Additional reporting by CNA
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