This late in his term in office, the tactic of seeking compromise no longer plays a significant part as a way for President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to ensure the future of his political agenda, political observers said.
With a few months left in his presidency, Chen has made a significant effort to push the envelope with initiatives including the bid to join the UN under the name "Taiwan," following on from the effort to join the WHO under the same name.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has been in high gear collecting signatures for the second-stage petition to hold a referendum on whether to join the UN under the name "Taiwan."
The US government has expressed strong opposition to this, saying the referendum "appears designed to change Taiwan's status unilaterally" and calling on the Chen administration to exercise "leadership" and reject any proposed referendum.
The Chen administration has also irritated the opposition by launching a series of campaigns to purge the government of the authoritarian legacy bequeathed by the former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime. They include removing statues of dictator Chiang Kai-shek (
With the presidential election approaching, Chen's selection of former presidential secretary-general Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) as deputy premier and former National Security Council member Lin Chin-chang (林錦昌) as minister without portfolio was interpreted by some as "putting the command center of the presidential campaign inside the Executive Yuan."
Analyzing Chen's recent behavior, Tuan Y. Cheng (
"Chen's actions today set the agenda for his successor, no matter who wins next year's presidential election," Cheng said. "Even the DPP's presidential candidate, Frank Hsieh (
Like his predecessor, Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), Chen is driven to demonstrate his unique personal characteristics during his last term in the presidency, because the two men each have their a legacy to think about, Cheng said.
While a second-term presidency is common in other democracies, Chen -- the country's first popularly elected president to have been re-elected -- has entered new political territory, and his term is almost over.
In the US, second-term presidents have tended to perform poorly. US president Richard Nixon resigned as a result of the Watergate scandal, Ronald Reagan's image suffered a great deal from the Iran-Contra scandal, while the Monica Lewinsky scandal severely affected Bill Clinton's second term and George W. Bush's approval rating has dropped to a record low because of the Iraq War.
Alexander Huang (黃介正), director of the Graduate Institute of American Studies at Tamkang University, said that second-term presidents are prone to harsher criticism for three main reasons.
First, the public becomes tired of their style; second, their best advisers tend to leave for better jobs with better pay; and third, they run out of creative ideas.