Taiwan's cabinet has resigned four days ahead of schedule in a move that has fuelled speculation of a widening rift between President Chen Shui-bian and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's presidential candidate, Frank Hsieh Chang-ting. Without giving any clue as to whether he would stay in his post or not, Premier Chang Chun-hsiung led the cabinet in resigning en masse yesterday, refusing to say who would be in the new lineup. Cabinet secretary general Chen Chin-chun also declined to reveal any planned personnel changes. The new cabinet is to be formed before the opening of the new legislature on Friday. 'Whether the new lineup will be made known by Monday or Wednesday is up to President Chen, who is discussing the issue with the presidential candidate,' he said. Mr Chang exhorted his cabinet members at their last meeting yesterday to carry on with their work until the new cabinet was formed. The cabinet's early resignation was a surprise decision Taiwanese media said had to do with Mr Hsieh's announcement that he planned to replace the premier with a chief executive capable of running the government as efficiently as a private enterprise. As the president is empowered to appoint the premier, Mr Hsieh's announcement was reported to have displeased Mr Chang, who was hand-picked by President Chen as the cabinet head eight months ago. Mr Chang yesterday said he was not offended by the announcement and that he was willing to step down to ensure the smooth operation of government. Mr Hsieh is running for president against opposition Kuomintang candidate Ma Ying-jeou, with the poll scheduled for March 22. Meanwhile, the Presidential Office said Mr Chen met Mr Hsieh yesterday to discuss the cabinet personnel issue and that of appointing a chief executive as cabinet head.