Lin Yi-shih’s (林益世) resignation as Executive Yuan secretary-general on Friday amid bribery allegations has dealt a severe blow to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government, according to political analysts.
However, the real damage to the party comes neither from the fall of a rising political star nor a possible drop in the approval ratings for President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administrative team over the incident, analysts said.
Rather, the biggest fallout could be further shrinkage of KMT bridgeheads in southern Taiwan, as Lin leaves the Ma administration under a cloud of corruption allegations that could hamper the party’s bid to take control of the region from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the analysts said.
Lin quit after being accused of accepting a bribe of NT$63 million (US$2.1 million) from Chen Chi-hsiang (陳啟祥), the owner of the Kaohsiung-based Ti Yung Co, to help the company secure a slag treatment contract.
The contract was offered by Taiwan-based China Steel Corp two years ago when Lin was a legislator.
The 44-year-old Lin was also accused of soliciting another bribe of NT$83 million from Chen between February and March this year. When Chen refused to pay up, Lin allegedly pressured China Steel, a listed company in which the government has the controlling stake, to stop supplying slag to Ti Yung for treatment.
The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Special Investigation Division (SID) has been investigating the claims since Next Magazine reported Chen’s claim on Wednesday.
The KMT now controls only three regional legislative seats and a mayoral seat in southern Taiwan, which is traditionally a DPP stronghold.
Ma, who doubles as KMT chairman, recruited Lin to his administrative team after Lin, a four-term lawmaker, lost his bid for re-election in January this year.
Lin, the scion of an influential political family in Kaohsiung, is seen as one of Ma’s proteges, a group that is known as “Ma’s army.” Lin became one of the KMT’s vice chairmen in 2006 when Ma took over the party’s helm for the first time and Lin once headed the party’s youth corps.
During his last legislative term, Lin served as the party’s chief legislative whip responsible for policy coordination. He was the youngest person ever to hold that post in the KMT.
Observers said Lin’s resignation amid bribery accusations could hurt Ma’s credibility.
In his election campaign in 2008, Ma played up the widespread allegations of corruption against his predecessor Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). Lin is the first senior official in the Ma administration to be tarnished by corruption charges.
Some analysts said Lin’s involvement in a graft scandal may even cast a cloud on Ma’s bid for re-election as KMT chairman next year.
As Lin is a key figure in one of the three largest political factions in Kaohsiung, the bribery charges against him could undermine the KMT’s influence in the region, analysts said.
As Ma has been grooming Lin to stand as the KMT’s candidate in the next Kaohsiung mayoral election, Lin’s resignation amid allegations of bribery could lead to a reshuffle of pro-KMT political forces in the Kaohsiung area, pundits familiar with the political climate in southern Taiwan said.
Some have predicted that the “Red” faction in the Kaohsiung political arena, which is led by the Lin family, could see its influence diminish in the wake of Lin’s resignation.