Thu, Jan 18, 2007 - Page 3 News List

KMT opts against Chen Tsung-ming

PARTY LINE The KMT said it would punish any of its lawmakers who voted in favor of approving President Chen Shui-bian's nominee for state public prosecutor-general

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) weighed in against the president's nominee for state public prosecutor-general, likely scuttling his nomination if the party can maintain discipline within its ranks.

The KMT caucus, which holds 90 legislative seats, held an informal poll to determine support for Chen Tsung-ming (陳聰明), who is the chief prosecutor of the Taiwan High Court's Kaohsiung branch.

In the poll, 52 KMT lawmakers voted against Chen.

"In our caucus meeting, 52 lawmakers voted against Chen, 21 voted for him and two cast invalid ballots. We therefore decided to veto Chen [today]," KMT Legislative caucus whip Tsai Chin-lung (蔡錦隆) told a press conference.

The legislature will vote on Chen's appointment this morning, after the president's previous nominee, chief prosecutor of the Taiwan High Court Prosecutors' Office Hsieh Wen-ding (謝文定), failed to receive the endorsement of a majority of lawmakers.

The president nominated Chen on May 26 last year but the vote on his confirmation was not placed on the legislative agenda until last week.

Tsai added that all KMT lawmakers present today will be required to cast invalid ballots. The party will discipline anyone who defies the order or who is absent without asking for leave in advance, Tsai said.

Of the 218 legislative seats that are filled, Chen is expected to gain 85 votes from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), 12 votes from the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) and seven votes from the Non-partisan Solidarity Union (NPSU), said a DPP lawmaker, speaking on condition of anonymity.

If the KMT's threats of punishment keep its lawmakers from supporting Chen, the key to his nomination could be the People First Party (PFP). Its lawmakers kept mum on the party's stance yesterday.

The KMT said that it lacked faith in the nominee, calling his independence into question.

"We don't think Chen will be a competent top prosecutor, as his performance during the legislature's review didn't demonstrate his capacity to resist political pressure," Tsai said.

While the PFP's stance on the vote remained unclear, there is speculation that the party intends to support Chen.

Chen rejected an order from the Ministry of Justice (then under KMT control) to summon former PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) over his role in the Chung Hsing Bills Finance case three days before the 2000 presidential election.

The summons would have seriously damaged Soong's credibility as he began his presidential bid.

Meanwhile, KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday denied that he opposed Chen for the mere sake of being contrary.

Ma said he had expressed his opposition to the nominee late on Tuesday night, challenging his integrity and independence as a prosecutor.

DPP caucus whip Yeh Yi-chin (葉宜津) yesterday blasted Ma over the matter.

"We do not understand what kind of top prosecutor the KMT really wants. DPP supporters have started to speculate that what the KMT wants is a top prosecutor who will not indict Ma over his alleged misuse of his mayoral special allowance," Yeh told a press conference.

Amendments made to the Organic Law of Court Organization (法院組織法) on Jan 13 last year state that the president's nominee for top prosecutor has to be approved by the legislature.

Additional reporting by Mo Yan-chih

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