December 3, 2005

Tough road seen for Taiwan’s Chen after election

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian is in
danger of becoming a lame duck for the remaining 2- years of
his term after his party's crushing defeat in local government
elections, newspaper editorials said on Sunday.

Chen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won just six out
of 23 mayoral and county magistrate posts in Saturday's polls,
with the rest going to the main opposition Nationalist Party
(Kuomintang or KMT) and its allies.

The DPP was defeated in several of its traditional
strongholds, including the island's largest constituency Taipei
County, pointing to eroding support among former die-hards.

"The results of this election run deep," said Taiwan's
Apple Daily. "Chen Shui-bian has become a lame duck inside and
outside the party, and the United States and China will ignore
him until a new president is elected in 2008.

"Taiwan is fated to spin its wheels without any traction
for the next two years," the newspaper said in an editorial.

Chen has been under pressure to reconcile with China and
lower economic barriers with the mainland, Taiwan's biggest
export market, where the island's companies are estimated to
have poured in over $100 billion in investments.

But China, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan, has
refused to deal with the independence-leaning Chen and will
likely continue to ignore him after this election, commentators

While papers said the DPP still had a chance to reclaim
voter trust before 2008, all agreed its clean reputation had
been soiled by scandals such as a corruption probe into a
subway project in the city of Kaohsiung involving the
president's former deputy chief of staff.

"The DPP's biggest crisis is that it needs to build a new
benchmark for the party's image, and Chen Shui-bian no longer
fits the bill," said the United Daily News.

"The DPP's core voters have wavered, and if this trend
continues to the 2008 presidential elections, their foundation
may crumble even further after losing local influence."

By contrast, KMT leader Ma Ying-jeou, a former justice
minister with a squeaky-clean image, has done much to improve
the party's old image as a group growing rich in back-room

Saturday's election victory puts Ma in first place for the
2008 race, political commentators said.

"In the past, Ma Ying-jeou has been jeered for being
obsessive in his insistence on promises and the law," the China
Times said. "But his special qualities have made him a target
for the hopes of people disappointed by today's politics."