Sun, Oct 15, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Anti-Chen move losing strength: analysts

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Shih Ming-teh, leader of the campaign aimed at ousting President Chen Shui-bian, sits alone on the VIP podium during last night's sit-in demonstration in front of Taipei Main Railway Station. Shih left after sitting alone for 20 minutes.

PHOTO: WANG YI-SUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Weeks after commencing a high-profile, round-the-clock demonstration calling on President Chen-Shui-bian (陳水扁) to step down, the anti-Chen campaign appears to be wracked by internal disputes and has come under heavy criticism following its unlawful "siege" last Tuesday.

While some critics had condemned the unlawful demonstration last Tuesday for disturbing public order, the harshest rebukes come from some of the campaign's own supporters, with some questioning "where the campaign leaders were" when the supporters were being dispersed by riot police in the early hours last Wednesday.

The campaign started on a high note. It received public donations totaling NT$111 million (US$3 million) when former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) first introduced the campaign in early August, attracting thousands of protesters to its sit-ins and other forms of demonstrations which started on Sept. 9.

The campaign reached its peak with hundreds of thousands of people flooding the streets and joining its mock "siege" of the Presidential Office on Sept. 15.

However, the campaign seems to have lost its momentum since then, with subsequent demonstrations attracting a lower number of participants.

Clashes between the campaign's organizers have also upset supporters who have questioned the apparently indecisive leadership.

While arguing that it may be too early to tell whether the campaign has lost public support, Yang Tai-shun (楊泰順), a professor of political science at Chinese Culture University, said Shih's failure to take advantage of his personal charisma to lead an organized campaign may have a negative impact on the campaign's future development.

"People joined the campaign with different purposes, and the bad influence of having too many people involved in the decision-making process, especially politicians, is that the purity of the campaign would be discounted," he told the Taipei Times in a telephone interview.

Shih, noting that members of the campaign's decision-making team came from different political party affiliations and background, had called it "a disorderly band of rebels."

As members came and went, rumors of internal clashes have spread since the beginning of the campaign.

Former campaign spokeswoman Ho De-fen (賀德芬), a professor emeritus at National Taiwan University, quit her post in early September due to a difference in opinion with the other two spokespersons, Jerry Fan (范可欽) and Wang Li-ping (王麗萍).

Last Friday also witnessed the departure of deputy coordinator Chuang Yen (莊嚴), who lashed out at Shih and the anti-Chen campaign decision-making team.

"I still deeply believe in Shih's leadership, but many decision-making members are too self-centered and refuse to listen to other opinions," Chuang said in a press conference on Friday.

Chuan condemned the campaign for allowing politicians to take control of the demonstrations and consume the energy of the campaign. He also urged Shih not to make any concessions in cooperation with Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

The campaign's abrupt decision last Tuesday to retreat from a planned overnight sit-in on Zhong-xiao W Rd drew criticism from some supporters, who claimed that the change was designed to make things easier for Ma.

Shih yesterday denied cooperating with Ma, while lashing out at Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) for being "hungry for power" yet failing to support the anti-Chen campaign.

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