Third anti-Chen motion fails in parliament

KMT campaign against president losing steam as corruption charges are levelled at its own leader, Ma Ying-jeou.

Taipei (AsiaNew/Agencies) – A third attempt by Taiwan's opposition to force embattled President Chen Shui-bian out of office through a referendum failed in parliament on Friday. Mr Chen and his wife are accused of corruption and unlawful use of public funds.

Only 118, mostly Kuomintang (KMT), lawmakers voted in favour, far short of the 146 or two-thirds of parliament needed for the motion to pass.

MPs from Mr Chen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Party boycotted the vote. Others voted against the motion or spoiled their ballots.

The KMT, which is seeking a political comeback, instigated two other recall votes in June and October but failed to garner enough support.

President Chen is accused of complicity with his wife Wu Shu-chen, who is charged with using at least NT$ 14,800,000 (about € 350,000 or US$ 450,000) from a special diplomatic fund.

Starting in early November the opposition has organised demonstrations and sit-ins in order to mobilise the population, but the anti-Chen campaign was seriously hurt when accusations were made against KMT chairman Ma Ying-jeou for embezzling government funds.

Mr Ma, who is known for his clean image, is accused of pocketing NT$ 170,000 in special allocations he receives each month to pay for his public engagements by wrongfully using receipts provided by others to account for his expenses.

Mr Ma, who is known for his clean image, yesterday denied any wrongdoing and said he was "safe" and that "there is nothing to worry about". However, he did promise to resign as mayor and KMT chairman if formally charged. Such a move worries KMT officials who counted on him to run in 2008 presidential elections and beat the DPP.

Contrary to past behaviour, Beijing has remained silent on the issue. Many mainland bloggers are saying that this silence is largely due to the even greater corruption affairs involving leaders and officials from the People's Republic, whilst the ongoing debate and fierce confrontation is Taiwan is seen as a sign of true democracy.