December 5, 2005

Taiwan Chen’s approval rating falls to all-time low

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian's
popularity has fallen to its lowest level since he took office
five years ago, a newspaper poll showed, two days after his
party suffered a crushing defeat in local elections.

The United Daily News reported on Monday that the survey of
1,044 people showed Chen's approval rating falling to 21
percent, down from 25 percent in the paper's last poll in

Chen enjoyed 79 percent support in June 2000, a month after
he took office.

The opinion poll followed Saturday's elections for local
government chiefs in which Chen's Democratic Progressive Party
(DPP), hurt by a corruption probe, won just six of 23 mayoral
and county magistrate posts.

The rest of the seats went to the opposition Nationalist
Party (Kuomintang or KMT) and its allies.

The DPP's poor showing was seen as a no-confidence vote in
Chen. Analysts said the president was in danger of becoming a
lame duck for the remaining 2- years of his term.

Chen has not appeared in public since the vote, and
canceled a meeting with winners of top youth awards scheduled
for Monday.

"The president has stayed at home in the past two days,
thinking and soul-searching," his deputy chief of staff, Ma
Yung-chen, told reporters.

"Please give him more time to think things over. He will
share his ideas with everybody after he clears his thoughts."

The United Daily survey, carried out on Sunday, found that
56 percent blamed Chen for the DPP election defeat, with most
pointing to the government's poor performance and a corruption
scandal involving a former Chen aide.

The newspaper said the opposition victory made KMT leader
Ma Ying-jeou front-runner for the 2008 presidential election,
with polls showing 68 percent of people wanted him to run.

The once-dominant KMT, which ruled Taiwan for more than
half a century after losing mainland China to the communists in
1949, was routed by Chen in 2000.

Chen won re-election by a razor-thin margin in 2004 after
an election-eve shooting that opposition parties say gave him
sympathy votes.