Wed, Nov 08, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Presidential Office in crisis: DPP facing biggest challenge in its 20-year history

TESTING TIMES The indictment of the first lady on corruption charges could cause a split within the party over support for the embattled president, analysts said

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Following first lady Wu Shu-jen's (吳淑珍) indictment last Friday on corruption and forgery charges, it is no exaggeration to say that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is now faced with the biggest crisis in the 20 years since its founding.

The prosecutors also revealed they had enough evidence to bring charges against President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). The president, however, enjoys immunity from prosecution while in office.

In the face of it all, the DPP now faces dissenting voices from within the party in addition to the pan-blue camp's third recall motion.

Jou Yi-cheng (周奕成), chief executive of the Generations Forum -- a group of party Young Turks -- said his group disapproved of the party's attitude toward the case.

Following Chen's speech on Sunday night in which he stressed he had no motive to embezzle public funds, the party held a press conference and expressed its support for Chen's remarks.

Jou said his group was not convinced by the president's remarks.

Calling Chen's Sunday night address a "talk show," Jou said Chen was "maneuvering" and trying to convince DPP members and supporters of his and Wu's innocence.

Chen Lu-huei (陳陸輝), a research fellow at the Election Study Center of National Chengchi University, said the DPP may have convinced its grassroots supporters -- about 20 percent of the total electorate nationwide according to previous election results -- through the president's address and the party's show of support for him.

However, more informed voters aged between 30 and 40 and youngsters, who do not usually identify with any particular party, gravitate to the opposition, he said.

These voters, with their greater, sophistication may have found the president's speech inconsistent and less persuasive, and were therefore likely to withdraw their support, according to Chen Lu-hui.

Lin Jih-wen (林繼文), a research fellow at the Academia Sinica's Institute of Political Science, said the most pressing problem facing the party was that "it was turning further and further away from the party's spirit of" [20 years ago].

"Although some people wish to see systemic reform coming from within the DPP, there has been no such reform since the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corporation (KRTC) scandal last year," Lin said, referring to the case in which former deputy secretary-general of the Presidential Office Chen Che-nan (陳哲男) was charged with profiteering from a labor brokerage company that hired Thai workers

Saying that the indictment, to some degree, had tarnished the DPP's image and that Chen's address may not "effectively convince the general public," Chen Lu-huei added that the party should consider distancing itself from the president.

"The DPP has never been divided in the past, but that was when it was still an opposition party and could not survive such a split, but it is the ruling party now. This time it may be different," he said, adding that Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), who is the most promising candidate for the presidency in 2008, may suffer the most if the president stays put.

Lin, however, said it was time for the DPP to hand over authority to the party's younger generation and rethink its role.

The DPP cannot depend on "its heavyweights from the Kaohsiung-Incident era forever," because their political careers are coming to an end and it is unlikely they will be able to offer innovative thinking for the party's future.

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