CHINA / Taiwan, HK, Macao

Chen yields power amid scandal
Updated: 2006-06-01 14:22

Chao has denied the charges.

That scandal followed opposition charges that Chen's wife, Wu Shu-chen, received free vouchers from the management of an upscale Taipei department store, and may have played a role in its takeover by a businessman whose bid was less than that of at least one rival suitor.

Chen's office denied any wrongdoing in that case.

Earlier this week Ma said Chen's problems were just the "tip of the iceberg" and that more scandals would follow.

That statement appeared to reflect charges by opposition lawmaker Chiu Yi accusing Wu of receiving up to 100 million New Taiwan dollars (US$3.1 million; euro2.4 million) from unidentified business executives in connection with her efforts to promote a series of bank mergers. 

Sheng, the Soochow University political scientist, said Chen's decision to hand over powers to Su reflected his fears that DPP lawmakers might join their opposition counterparts in supporting a recall move if new corruption scandals came to light.

"Chen's best case scenario is to share power with the party elite and hope that he can remain in office until the end of his term in 2008," he said. "I think the voices for him to step down will intensify if there are more scandals."

The opposition enjoys a slight majority in Taiwan's 225-seat legislature, so a decision by around 30 DPP lawmakers to support a recall initiative would push it over the first of the two recall thresholds.

The second of the thresholds - a recall referendum - requires the participation of half the island's eligible voters, and a simple majority in favor.

One hundred and ten opposition lawmakers have already signed a petition urging that a recall move go forward.

In remarks to reporters on Tuesday, Ma conditioned his support for a recall drive on the production of evidence linking Ma or Wu directly to corrupt practices.

He said if it can be shown that Wu and Chen were involved in illegal actions, he wouldn't hesitate to get behind such a move.

"(Recall) is a very difficult task," he said. But if Chen and his wife are involved, people's reactions could be very strong, Ma added.

A China Times commentary said: "Becoming a mere figurehead cannot quell the people's anger.

"The people had hoped that Chen would express regret, but he did not. The people had hoped that he would explain clearly what happened in those wrongdoings, but he did not," it said. 

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