Former ally in new bid to oust Taiwan leader

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 April, 2007, 12:00am

'Red army' leader pledges election challenge if Chen doesn't resign

A former ally of Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian yesterday announced a plan to field candidates against the island's leader if he refuses requests to resign.

But analysts say that, given the rapidly fading influence of the campaign leader, Shih Ming-teh, there is little room for a campaign aided by his 'red army' to gain legislative seats.

Speaking at a news conference in Taipei, Mr Shih, a former mentor of Mr Chen, declared that he would form a political group to field candidates for the December poll.

His group got the 'red army' name from the September 9 protests called by Mr Shih, which drew one million demonstrators, mainly clad in red, calling for resignation of Mr Chen over a string of corruption scandals surrounding him, his family and government.

'We plan to form the third political force to allow [voters] - who are sick of corruption, violence, confrontation and hatred - another choice', in order to 'turn Taiwan for the better', said Mr Shih, who returned from 'self-confinement' at home after his September campaign failed to bring down Mr Chen.

Mr Shih, a former chairman of Mr Chen's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said he would abide by his promise of not contesting any public or elected posts himself.

'I have already said I will not run for any public post or become a government official,' he said.

He called on voters to give 'one vote to a politician and another vote to hope', referring to the red army's pledge to fight corruption, and its aversion to violence, confrontation and hatred.

'If voters do so, technically the red army candidates do not even need to go out to solicit votes,' he added.

'Being named as one of the top five people to have been implicated in scandals, [Mr Chen] should long ago have stood down,' Mr Shih said.'On November 15 last year, he declared to the world that he would step down' if his wife, Wu Shu-chen, was convicted of corruption.

Ms Wu was indicted for embezzlement of secret state funds and prosecutors said they had enough evidence to charge Mr Chen but delayed action against him due to presidential immunity. Mr Chen has asked the courts to drop the charges against his wife.

DPP legislators yesterday jeered at Mr Shih's plan to enter candidates in the poll and to start another campaign against Mr Chen.

'Who cares about him now?' asked Wang Shu-hui, DPP deputy legislative caucus head.

At Mr Shih's news conference, frustrated supporters lashed out at him for failing to bring down Mr Chen.

'Shih Ming-teh, what are you doing? You are deceiving the 23 million people here, and your pledge has never been realised,' shouted one.

Even the opposition People First Party (PFP) had doubts about Mr Shih's plan, saying it would be difficult for the 'red army' to do anything given that Mr Chen was now again in full control of the government.

'The momentum to force Chen Shui-bian out has gone. Supporters have lost faith in Shih,' said Liu Bi-rung, political science professor at Soochow University.

He said the political structure in Taiwan has changed to a bipartisan system with the opposition Kuomintang and the DPP dominating the legislature. 'There is little chance for the red army to win the race.'

Mr Chen yesterday lashed out at Mr Shih's new attack, saying: 'Isn't it clear that certain opposition and political groups have repeatedly tried to overthrow the [president] chosen by the public through democratic and constitutional process?'