Ma Ying-jeou risks splitting Taiwan’s KMT, lawmakers warn

Lawmakers warn of major party rift if Ma demands the ousting of legislative speaker, whom he accuses of influence-peddling

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 4:30am

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou is said to be risking a major rift in his party amid the fallout from alleged influence-peddling that has forced his justice minister to resign.

Ma at the weekend accused legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng, a fellow member of the Kuomintang, of influence-peddling by lobbying former justice minister Tseng Yung-fu not to appeal against the acquittal of prominent opposition lawmaker Ker Chien-ming in a breach-of-trust case.

Yesterday, Premier Jiang Yi-huah - a Ma ally - weighed in, saying Wang should resign because his integrity in future legislative sessions could be in doubt.

If Wang is forced to step down, it could drive a wedge between supporters of both men, analysts and lawmakers said.

Some KMT lawmakers said yesterday that they feared a stormy legislature ahead if Wang was sacked.

I don't know if Ma has considered the possibility of a split within the party if the speaker is sacked. This would also affect our chances in next year's local government elections

"I don't know if Ma has considered the possibility of a split within the party if the speaker is sacked," said a senior KMT legislator who declined to be named. "This would also affect our chances in next year's local government elections."

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party has accused Ma of undercutting the judiciary's independence.

Ker, the DPP caucus whip, led the attack.

"Ma Ying-jeou is the one who violates the law and disrupts judicial independence," said Ker, adding that he had orchestrated a power struggle within the KMT to force Wang from his post.

Ker was found guilty in the breach-of-trust case and sentenced to six months in jail or a fine of NT$180,000 (HK$47,000). He appealed to the High Court, which overturned the verdict in June.

Tseng quit on Friday after investigators from the Supreme Prosecutor's Office accused him and the head of the Taiwan High Prosecutors Office, Chen Shou-huang, of trying to block an appeal against Ker's acquittal.

On Sunday, Ma said that Wang's lobbying of Tseng was the "most serious infringement of Taiwan judicial independence" and the "most shameful day in the development of Taiwan's democracy".

Wang is influential within the KMT, as well as in southern Taiwan.

Premier Jiang said the KMT's disciplinary committee could reach a decision as early as tomorrow on whether to pursue influence-peddling allegations against Wang.

Wang was in Malaysia attending his daughter's wedding and unable to respond. He is expected back in Taiwan tonight.

DPP chairman Su Tseng-chang said Ma, in his dual role as KMT chairman, could order the party's disciplinary committee to expel Wang.

Su claimed Ma was displeased by Wang's apparent inaction on various bills, including a referendum on a nuclear power plant and a cross-strait service trade agreement.

"By sacking Wang, Ma could take the reins of the legislature and order KMT legislators to follow his instructions," Su said.

Legal experts said Ma may have interfered with the process by criticising Wang.

"Ma is not the one in charge of such cases, and some information which came from wiretapping, and was in the process of being investigated, should never be given to Ma," said legal expert Lin Yung-sung.

The DPP said it had filed lawsuits against Wang and the special investigation division for leaking secret information and illegal wiretapping.