Taiwan's first ever motion to recall a president was not expected to garner sufficient support to get through the legislature. Yet the fact that Chen Shui-bian has survived even though no legislators, including those from his own party, voted against the motion says a lot about his precarious position. Taking orders from the party, none of the 86 legislators from the Democratic Progressive Party showed up to vote. The party leadership's decision was telling. It showed that while it is not prepared to dump its president at this stage, it does not want to offend its supporters by rallying to his support. The decision was politically astute. So far, allegations of irregularities have been made against Mr Chen's close aides and family members, not Mr Chen himself. But had the DPP legislators turned up to vote against the motion, the record would have shown them supporting the embattled president. Should the allegations continue to gain momentum and implicate him later, their votes would have become a blot on their own political records. Probably out of similar considerations, 12 members of the Taiwan Solidarity Union and two former DPP members decided to cast invalid votes. As the TSU's mentor is former president Lee Teng-hui, an advocate for Taiwanese independence and formerly a staunch supporter of Mr Chen, the party's voting decision was seen as a sign Mr Lee was further distancing himself from the president. Although the motion has failed to unseat Mr Chen, it has achieved its mission of embarrassing him and damaging the DPP's standing. In 2000, Mr Chen came to power on the back of a DPP platform to purge Taiwan of the money politics that permeated the Kuomintang administration during its five-decade grip on power. Now, the DPP and those close to it are beginning to look just as corrupt. The DPP could show that it takes clean politics seriously by dumping Mr Chen. Should that happen, the constitution provides that Vice-President Annette Lu Hsiu-lien, also a DPP member, will step up. But the party is, understandably, not ready to take that step lightly, Mr Chen is, after all, its first president. Instead, it has opted to ride out the crisis. In so doing, it has allowed Kuomintang chairman Ma Ying-jeou to exploit the opportunity as a warm-up exercise for his bid for the presidency in 2008. How the DPP's strategy will cost it electorally remains to be seen. Even before the recent series of scandals was exposed, the party suffered major defeats in last year's local elections. However, analysts noted that although the DPP's share of the popular vote dropped, the party still commanded substantial support. A more up-to-date assessment of the depth of the political fallout will not be available until December, when mayoral elections will be held for the key cities of Taipei and Kaohsiung. They should reveal whether identity will remain the most important consideration to the Taiwanese in light of all that has happened. Analysts will be closely watching how and why voters throw their support behind pro-unification candidates from the so-called blue camp or the pro-Taiwanese independence ones from the green camp. As things stand, Mr Ma is widely expected to win the next presidential election. Some members of his party have criticised him for failing to take the initiative to instigate the recall action. The Kuomintang signed up for the recall only after it was pushed by the People First Party. Mr Ma, a former justice minister, has shown that he is not adept at playing politics the mud-slinging way. But that may turn out to serve him well. The Taiwanese public have, sadly, become accustomed to muckraking and will surely be attracted to a leader who is free from scandal. The positive side of the scandals surrounding Mr Chen's family and aides is that they have shown Taiwan has a functioning democracy and free press. It is important that both remain firmly intact in the difficult months ahead, when Mr Chen's fate will be decided.