Taiwan's opposition and ruling parties are readying themselves for a showdown this week, amid growing calls for its scandal-hit leader Chen Shui-bian to step down.
The opposition plans to push for a referendum in Taiwan's parliament to recall Chen over scandals involving some of his family members.
The island's biggest opposition Kuomintang Party (KMT) and its ally People First Party (PFP) have agreed to seek a recall motion against Chen in the Legislative Yuan.
Taiwan's main opposition Nationalist Party leader Ma Ying-jeou (R) and opposition People First Party leader James Soong(L) attend the rally of opposition parties in Taipei.
Taiwan lawmakers are set to meet today to discuss whether to return from the summer recess and hold an extraordinary session, during which the opposition parties plan to initiate proceedings for the recall vote. A referendum to oust Chen can only take place if two-thirds of the 225-seat Legislative Yuan approve the move.
The opposition would need the support of 10 independent lawmakers and another 25 from Chen's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to achieve the required majority, which is considered unlikely by analysts.
Ahead of the possible referendum to oust Chen, thousands of people took to the streets of the capital city, Taipei, on Saturday, calling for his voluntary resignation for the second consecutive weekend.
Analysts say the protest was part of the opposition's campaign to maintain its pressure on Chen, whose approval rating has dived to record lows, and on investigators to press on with a probe into alleged financial wrongdoings.
Police estimated that more than 20,000 opposition supporters gathered in front of the presidential office building blowing air horns and waving yellow flags with the words, "Down with A-Bian", an abbreviation of Chen's name.
KMT leader and Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou said that Chen had lost the dignity necessary to function as the leader. Chen "should resign to reduce the costs to society, so that people will at least still feel some sympathy and respect for him".
"The pressure from these street protests is much greater than that of the recall motion as that vote can't pass," said Lu Ya-li, a professor of political science at the Chinese Culture University. "On the one hand, the protest puts pressure on Chen and on the other it puts pressure on the investigators," Lu added.
(China Daily June 12, 2006)