01/23/2006, 00.00
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Chen changes prime minister ahead of 2008 presidential elections

New Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang, a former head of the Democratic Progressive Party, is expected to restore the party's image. Outgoing Prime Minister Frank Hsieh Chang-ting and his entire cabinet step down today.

Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian has appointed Su Tseng-chang, a former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)  leader, as his fifth premier replacing Frank Hsieh Chang-ting who stepped down today along with his entire cabinet.

For some analysts, Mr Chen intends to use Mr Su to restore the government's image, battered during Mr Hsieh's year-long term by corruption allegations, and better position himself to win the 2008 presidential elections.

"From local to central governments, [. . .] former chairman Su has strived hard from the tip of Taiwan to its tail," the President Chen said.

Su's appointment comes after the ruling party suffered its worst setback during the December 3 local government elections, in which the DPP was able to hold on to only six of the 23 City and County magistrate posts.

Mr Hsieh, who took the blame for the loss, today thanked all 34 members of his outgoing cabinet "for their help and dedication during his year in power".

In response to the president's charges, Mr Hsieh said that his decision to quit stems from profound disagreements with Chen on "various important issues", including the presidential refusal to revoke the 57-year ban on direct air links with mainland China.

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