05/20/2006, 00.00
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President's popularity rating plummets

People don't approve of the way Chen Shui-bian's government works, but it is the financial scandals rocking his family that have drawn the most protests.

Taipei (AsiaNews/SCMP) – Chen Shui-bian's bid to win back credibility through foreign policy maneuvers has been unsuccessful. The Taiwan president's popularity ratings have plummeted to an all time low. Chen is under fire because of his government's poor performance and a string of scandals implicating his family.

The latest survey conducted by the Shih Hsin private university revealed that the president's rating had dropped to below 16%, just two months after a similar survey by the DPP, the democratic party in government, had put his rating at 18%. The rating given by the Taiwan Solidarity Union, a party backing the DPP, was lower still – it gauged the president's rating at 5.8%.

Of the 1,063 respondents to the survey of the Shih Hsin university, 70.4% were dissatisfied with Chen's performance. Of those, 40.7% strongly disapproved of him.

Another survey by the United Daily News put his approval rating at 20%, the lowest figure in its polls since Chen became president in 2000. The finding that the president should find the most worrying, however, is that those who disapprove of him rose to 60% from 55% in a week. Chen's declining popularity has repercussions for the DPP too: according to the daily, its approval rating has fallen to 17%.

DPP officials join analysts in pinpointing the financial scandals rocking Chen's family as the reason for his dwindling popularity. "Chen Shui-bian thought he could have at least won some applause for what he deemed a diplomatic breakthrough for Taiwan by visiting non-diplomatic allies Libya and Indonesia, but what greeted him at home when he returned was insider trading allegations involving his son-in-law," said Soochow University political science professor Emile Sheng Chih-jen. On his way back from a trip to Latin America, Chen stopped over in Tripoli and an island in Indonesia. But just before he returned to Taiwan, local news media reported Dr Chao Chien-ming, who is married to his daughter, allegedly profited through insider trading in the shares of a company that had faced bankruptcy. This scandal came a few weeks after an accusation leveled at Chen's wife, Wu Shu-chen. The president's wife was charged with unclear financial transactions.

Yeh Yi-chin, DPP MP, said the scandal involving Dr Chao had infuriated the president, who thought his son-in-law should not have used the family's influence to do anything that would hurt Chen.

Chao quit the DPP on Thursday 18 May, although he had apologized for what happened.

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