Analysts doubt Chen has convinced all

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 June, 2006, 12:00am

Citing previous problems with KMT won't wash, they say

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian's two-hour address in response to an opposition recall motion might have reassured his supporters, but many others were likely to be unconvinced, analysts said yesterday.

George Tsai, a research fellow at National Chengchi University's Institute of International Relations, said: 'At least half of the people here do not buy it.'

Under pressure to quit over corruption allegations linked to his wife and son-in-law, Mr Chen hit back at the opposition Kuomintang and People First Party for tabling a motion in the legislature last week seeking to unseat him.

Mr Chen's son-in-law, Chao Chien-ming, was arrested last month for alleged insider trading, while Mr Chen's wife, Wu Shu-chen, is under investigation for allegedly accepting NT$5 million ($1.2 million) worth of department store gift vouchers in return for lobbying favours. The president's former chief aide, Chen Che-nan, has been charged with corruption.

Mr Chen rejected opposition accusations he was unfit to be president for tolerating corruption, souring US-Taiwan and cross-strait relations, instigating ethnic and political divides, and failing to improve the economy.

He refused to heed the legislature's call for him to issue a written defence against the recall motion, instead trying to clarify his position in Tuesday's televised speech.

Mr Tsai said KMT and PFP supporters would not be convinced by Mr Chen's rebuttal. Mr Chen repeatedly said what he, his family and his government had done was no worse than what the KMT had done while in power, when Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-kuo ruled the island from 1949 to 1981.

'If Mr Chen made the comparison with the old times, what was the point of toppling the old era and why did he and his party bother to make those high-sounding pledges of bringing reforms and ending corruption in Taiwan?' Mr Tsai asked.

He said that of the most serious accusation - that his family and government were involved in corruption - Mr Chen not only failed to apologise over the wrongdoings of his son-in-law and his former chief aide, he also made no attempt to say how he would contain corruption within his government and prevent a repeat.

Instead, he rapped the opposition for wronging his wife, saying she was innocent.

However, analysts agreed Mr Chen should now be able to shrug off demands to quit because his eloquence had soothed most supporters of the pro-independence green camp, who had been upset after learning of Dr Chao's alleged wrongdoing.

'President Chen used the Taiwanese dialect during most of his address to seek understanding from pan-green supporters, and tried to consolidate their support,' said Hsu Yung-ming, an assistant research fellow at the Academia Sinica, Taiwan's top academic institution.

'The recall motion issue thus becomes a political fight between the blue and the green camps, and the focus is no longer on corruption or other irregularities,' he said, adding the tactic had helped boost the morale of government supporters.

'Now the pressure is on the blue camp, which is to face the likely bitterness of defeat in their recall move.'

Analysts say that with only a slim majority in the 221-seat legislature, the opposition camp will find it impossible to get the recall motion passed. They would need the support of two-thirds of the legislature.

Mr Tsai warned that political confrontation would increase after the motion failed. The legislature is set to vote on the motion on Tuesday.