Taiwan's "president" Chen Shui-bian faced another attempt to force him out of office yesterday as the island's "legislature" fixed a date for voting on the recall of the corruption-tainted leader.
With members of Chen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) boycotting the session, anti-Chen "lawmakers" set November 24 to debate the recall issue, and then capped their triumph by unfurling an array of banners condemning him for his alleged role in looting a special "diplomatic" fund.
But just as he did on two previous recall attempts, Chen seemed certain to prevail, buoyed by the support of his DPP.
On Wednesday, the party voted to support their embattled leader, following a Sunday speech in which Chen refuted prosecutor's allegations that he, his wife Wu Shu-chen and three former aides had embezzled 14.8 million New Taiwan dollars (US$450,000) from a government fund.
Wu and the three aides were indicted in the case and prosecutors said Chen would likely be charged with embezzlement as well when his immunity from prosecution lapses after he leaves office. His second and final term ends in May 2008.
The problem for Chen's opponents is that "presidential" recall motions need a two-thirds majority of Taiwan's 220-member "legislature" before they can be referred to Taiwan voters for final approval.
And with a small DPP ally changing course on an earlier promise to support them, anti-Chen "lawmakers" will likely be able to muster no more than 124 votes when the recall issue comes up for debate, 23 short of the 147 needed for passage.
Still, the issue of Chen's alleged corruption continues to dominate discussion on the island of 23 million people.
Early on Friday, major Taiwan newspapers published an open letter from a former Chen adviser calling on the "president" to resign over the corruption allegations.
In the letter Nobel laureate Lee Yuan-tseh urged Chen to "concede mistakes" and choose the "correct option" in dealing with the charges against him.
"At this juncture, I sincerely suggest: It is necessary for 'president' Chen to seriously consider the issue of his continued leadership," Lee wrote.
He also issued a thinly veiled warning to the DPP that standing by Chen could cost it dearly in upcoming elections.
"A political party that does not know how to show remorse for corruption will be despised by the people," Lee wrote.
As the head of the prestigious Academia Sinica, Lee gave Chen's "presidential" election campaigns in 2000 and 2004 major boosts by backing his calls to crack down on graft.
On Friday afternoon, Chen issued a brief statement in response to Lee's letter, saying he would listen to all opinions.
(China Daily November 11, 2006)