June 2, 2006

Taiwan opposition piles pressure on Chen to quit

By Benjamin Kang Lim

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan's second biggest opposition party
on Friday sought to ratchet up the pressure on President Chen
Shui-bian to stand down in the face of a deepening political
crisis, announcing plans for a protest outside his office.

Chen agreed this week to share power with Premier Su
Tseng-chang and approved the resignations of his closest aides
in an attempt to deflect growing pressure from supporters and
opponents alike to resign over an insider trading scandal
implicating his son-in-law.

But the People First Party dismissed the moves and unveiled
plans to stage a protest outside the presidential office on

Analysts said the struggling People First Party was seeking
to seize the initiative after Ma Ying-jeou, chairman of the
main opposition Nationalist Party, angered many supporters when
he opposed calls for Chen to be recalled in a parliamentary

Ma wants to wait for a string of corruption scandals
besetting Chen to snowball and implicate other members of the
first family before seeking Chen's ouster.

Also, the two allied opposition parties lack the two-thirds
parliamentary majority needed to sack Chen in a recall vote.

"There has been no precedent. We need to study the issue,"
Ma told reporters, adding that the constitution was unclear on
how many parliamentary recall votes can be held.

A Nationalist deputy proposed a parliamentary vote of no
confidence against the cabinet as an alternative, a move that
could force the president to dissolve the body and call snap

But Vice Premier Tsai Ing-wen dismissed opposition and
media calls for the ouster of three controversial cabinet
ministers, saying there were no plans for a reshuffle.

Shih Ming-teh, the estranged chairman of Chen's Democratic
Progressive Party, joined the chorus calling for Chen's ouster.

"Mr Chen Shui-bian must ponder (the crisis)," Shih told
reporters. "Can you still lead the country? How much
credibility do you have with the people?"

Another former DPP chairman, Hsu Hsin-liang, predicted on a
television talk show that Chen would follow in the footsteps of
his aides and step down.

Chen's approval rating has sunk to new lows since his
son-in-law, Chao Chien-ming, was detained last Thursday on
suspicion of insider trading, the first time a member of
Taiwan's first family has been held on suspicion of breaking
the law.

A poll conducted by the China Times and published on Friday
showed that 43 percent of 704 respondents wanted Chen to step
down, while 49 percent did not believe he would share power.

In a twist, Premier Su and parliamentary speaker Wang
Jin-pyng told reporters on Friday that the health of First Lady
Wu Shu-chen, who has been confined to a wheelchair since she
was hit by a vehicle more than 20 years ago, had deteriorated
in recent days.