Taiwan's political rivals call truce in a fierce battle that went nowhere

After failing to kick out the legislative speaker, Ma Ying-jeou had no choice but to make peace

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 October, 2013, 3:53am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 October, 2013, 3:53am

After an intense month and a half of legal manoeuvring and scandalous revelations, the fierce political battle between Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou and speaker of the legislature Wang Jin-pyng seems to have been resolved, with all players emerging unscathed.

Ma and Wang recently staged a so-called grand reconciliation, with Ma dropping his planned pursuit of a final appeal against a court injunction that had allowed Wang to stay on as speaker. In return, Wang joined fellow party legislators in voting down a no-confidence motion initiated by the opposition against Premier Jiang Yi-huah, who heads the cabinet and is an ally of Ma's.

The actions, coming after numerous pacification efforts by Kuomintang leaders, ended - on the surface at least - the showdown between Ma and Wang. The strife began on August 31, when Prosecutor General Huang Shih-ming reported to Ma on information gathered through wiretapping that allegedly showed illegal lobbying by Wang on behalf of Ker Chien-ming, the legislative caucus whip of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

Believing that Wang had tried to use his influence to stop a prosecutor from appealing to a high court's not-guilty verdict on a criminal breach-of-trust case involving Ker, Ma held a news conference on September 8, demanding that Wang - who was recommended by the KMT as an "at-large" legislator - step down. Days later, Ma, in his capacity as KMT chairman, ordered the party disciplinary committee to revoke Wang's KMT membership so that he would be removed as speaker. But Wang twice won a court injunction to temporarily freeze the KMT action.

The clash spilled into another political scandal, with Huang being accused of illegally wiretapping the legislature. Ma was summoned as a witness to testify on his role in the scandal after he admitted in several news media interviews that Huang showed him the wiretapping transcript a week before government investigators ended their probes into the influence-peddling case.

The scandal threatened to become a crisis, with the DPP tabling a motion in mid-October for a vote of no-confidence in Jiang's cabinet.

During the vote, Wang voted against the DPP's motion, a move he had already announced the day before. The KMT, which dominates the legislature, outnumbered the DPP during the vote and quashed the motion.

With Wang expected to be able to complete his term as speaker, which ends in 2016, there was little Ma or the KMT could do now but welcome him back. As long as Wang is speaker, Ma and his party will still need his support on bills, budgets and agreements such as the cross-strait service trade pact that Ma hopes to pass.

It seems the dust has settled, and the newly unified KMT can concentrate on next year's local government elections. But with no one on the hook for any wrongdoing, some questions that have arisen - over the speaker's lobbying in the legislature and government investigators' inappropriate use of wiretapping - are left hanging, at least for the time being.