Battlepanda: Ouch!


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


That's gotta hurt. Not only is his approval rating at 28% and massive rallies being held on Ketagalan avenue calling for his resignation, John of Dymaxion World just called Presiden Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan the "Dubya of the East".

As I've been something of a newspaper junkie lately, maybe I can answer some of John questions regarding why the Pan-blue coalition is inexplicably calling for Chen Shui-bian's resignation rather than allowing the massively unpopular president to serve out his lame-duck term. Going into the 2008 elections, it is certainly easier for the pan-blues to have Chen Shui-bian as the face of the DDP rather than the current vice president, Annette Lu. Although Lu is known for being brash and gaffe-prone, her integrity is beyond doubt, a factor that carries a lot of weight in the wake of the recent corruption scandals that have rocked the Chen government.

The key point to remember is that the Pan-blue coalition is made up of two parties with separate interests. The Nationalist party is the stronger of the two, while the People's party, which is an off-shoot of the Nationalist Party, is struggling for relevance. Ma Yin-Jiou, the Mayer of Taipei and the presumed candidate of the Nationalists in the 2008 elections would like nothing better than for Chen to continue as an albatross around the DPP's neck for the rest of his term. However, sensing a political opportunity, the leader of the People's Party, James Soong, has come out strongly against Ma for being soft on Chen. Poor Mr. Ma basically had no choice but to change his position or risk being dragged down by Chen himself.

This series of scandals is interesting because, by most accounts, the president is not accused of any direct wrongdoing. But his wife, his closest advisors and above all his son-in-law are all accused of some pretty heavy-duty corruption, influence peddling and insider-trading. Frankly, I think that it sets a terrible precident to remove a sitting president on charges that ultimately boils down to guilt by association. However, should Chen want his party to do well in 2008, this might not be a bad time to fall on his sword. Annette Lu would then have two years to prove herself, or not. Either way, the DPP can go into the '08 elections having left the scandal behind somewhat. Just as if Clinton stepped down in the wake of the Lewinsky scandal and left Al Gore in office, Gore (and the Democrats in general) would probably have been in a stronger position in 2000.

Alas, it is not in the nature of politicians to readily relinquish power. As it is in the United States, so it is in Taiwan. My prediction is that Chen will do everything he can to hang on to his presidency in the next two years leading to a Nationalist sweep in 2008.