Election chances boosted by reshuffle

TAIWAN'S ruling Kuomintang (KMT) yesterday approved a major government reshuffle involving a dozen top officials which analysts say will boost the weakening party in the 1995 parliamentary and 1996 presidential elections.

The changes, to be effective today, cover the portfolios of defence, interior, economy, mainland affairs, labour and culture.

'I believe the reshuffle is a new milestone for us and a new start. I hope everyone can support the Government,' premier Lien Chan said.

Analysts said it would also help President Lee Teng-hui and Mr Lien, who is being groomed as a possible successor for Mr Lee, in the presidential poll.

'The reshuffle is basically a KMT deployment to secure its vote base for the future elections,' said Parris Chang, an opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker who heads the parliamentary foreign affairs committee.

'Except for three officials, all others are old faces, and many of them are placed in the position to help Mr Lee or his successor in the 1996 presidential elections.' Significantly, Interior Minister Wu Poh-hsiung, 55, who has strong influence in the ethnic Hakka group which makes up 30 per cent of Taiwan's 21 million people, was to become Secretary-General to the President.

The Interior Ministry will be headed by Huang Kun-hui, 58, chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC).

The liberal-minded Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) chairman, Vincent Siew, 55, will head the MAC, a move seen by Taiwan observers as a government attempt to increase economic ties with Beijing.

At his farewell party as CEPD chairman yesterday, Mr Siew said 'people shouldn't entertain excessively high expectations for change' as Taipei's China policy remains 'guided by the National Unification Guidelines'.

The guidelines, drafted in 1991, posit a three-stage approach including a near-term 'exchange and reciprocity' phase, a medium-term period of trust-building and a final phase of 'consultation and unification'.

Mr Huang, the outgoing MAC chairman, defended the MAC's generally cautious position, stating that 'cross-strait affairs are full of uncertainty as no one can predict what the other side will do'.