The issue of imprisoned former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is likely to cause an internal feud at the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) party congress on Saturday, with opinions divided on whether to allow Chen to return to the party.
According to a press release issued on Sunday night by the office of Chen Shui-bian, who is serving a 20-year sentence for corruption, DPP Legislator Mark Chen (陳唐山) is preparing to propose reinstating the former president’s party membership at the congress.
The proposal has been endorsed by 36 of the 40 DPP lawmakers and about 60 percent of the DPP councilors for the five special municipalities, the office said.
Chen Shui-bian was expelled from the DPP over his corruption cases, which “were political persecution and President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) vendetta,” the office said.
However, DPP politicians have been polarized on the issue, with its headquarters remaining silent on Chen Shui-bian’s possible return, while some lawmakers, including Mark Chen and Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), were more vocal and supportive of the proposal.
Others were either hesitant to make a final decision or concerned about the potential backlash and impact on the DPP the former president’s return could have.
The issue has been particularly difficult for DPP lawmakers who represent constituencies in the south, where most of the former president’s supporter reside.
A lawmaker who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue said she endorsed the proposal because of pressure from local voters, despite not wanting to.
Another lawmaker, who also wished to remain anonymous, said he refused to endorse the proposal because Chen Shui-bian was not “expelled” from the party in August 2008.
“He withdrew from the DPP at the time. If he wants to return to the party, all he has to do is fill out the application,” the lawmaker said, although the DPP “was not obligated to welcome Chen Shui-bian back with open arms after what he did to the party.”
Former DPP legislator Lin Cho-shui (林濁水) was among those who vehemently oppose Chen Shui-bian’s return, saying it would again tarnish the DPP’s image and send the wrong message to voters.
People’s sympathy for Chen Shui-bian because of his current treatment in prison and his illnesses does not translate into forgiveness, because the former president has yet to apologize for his corruption, Lin said.