A Million People Will Not Oust President Chen Shui-bian

(New Century Net)  Shih Ming-teh may touch one million people, but A-Bian shall not be removed.  By Anti (安替).  August 18, 2006.

(in translation)

As of August 18, former Democratic Progressive Party chairman Shih Ming-teh is in the fifth day of his one million person campaign of NT$100 per person to bring down President Chen Shui-bian.  The amount raised so far has reached NT$81.81 million.  It is estimated that the NT$100 million mark will be reached by Sunday, August 21.  The continuous sit-in at the Ketagalan Boulevard will begin some time next week at the earliest.  This is the next climax after the failure by the People First Party to recall A-Bian in June.

Shih Ming-teh is an elder in the DPP and he is one of the eight gentlemen of Formosa magazine who caused the DPP to become a legitimate political party.  He was put in jail by the KMT twice, serving a total of 25 years in jail.  During the Formosa magazine trial, he went on a hunger strike regardless of the danger to his personal life and he touched the entire Taiwan society.  As a result of his call, the one-million-person hundred-million-dollar campaign within a week carries a fundamental moral element.  This is why ever since the case of Chao Chien-ming broke open, only the anti-Bian movement led by Shih Ming-teh was able to gain the support of more than 60% of the people.  The phrase "Today, have you donated?" has become a fashionable phrase in Taiwan.

In June when the PFP and KMT brought up the recall proposal, Chen Shui-bian and the DPP used a blue-versus-green approach by equating "recall vs. corruption" to the smear of "outside political power versus local political power" and made the DPP and the pan-green people defend A-Bian, albeit reluctantly.  But Shih Ming-teh is someone who gave up half his life for the DPP and it would be very difficult to smear him as "blue."  Besides, this current campaign refuses the participation of any political party or social group.  Therefore, the DPP can only resort to some low-down methods to smear Shih Ming-teh, such as his ex-wife coming out to accuse him of womanizing, or Yu Shyi-kun speaking about how political morality is just feudal thinking, or Wang Ben-hu saying that the NT$100 million was really money-laundering for the PFP/KMT, or Wang Shih-Cheng saying that he "wished Shih Ming-teh had been executed by Chiang Ching-kuo twenty six years ago."  But these trash talking cannot lessen the immense impact on A-Bian and the DPP, for the various public opinion polls have put the support levels for Chen Shui-bian and the DPP at between 11% to 18%.

In any ordinary society, a popular support rate in the teens would force a political leader out.  But the sad thing is that even a successful campaign to mobilize public opinion such as Shih Ming-teh's has no chance of forcing A-Bian out.  The reasons are either the political character of A-Bian, or the design of the political system in Taiwan, or the internal power structure of the DPP.  No matter what, A-Bian will not and he does not have to quit.

First, if A-Bian quits, his entire family and assets will be seriously threatened.  A-Bian, his wife, his son-in-law and his trusted aides will go to jail.  Even though his successor may give him a personal amnesty, he cannot avert the destruction of his family.  The historian Tang Degang insightfully pointed out that the crisis in transfer of power by Chinese rulers is the reason why China was stuck in a historical bind.  Therefore, A-Bian must defend his power until 2008 and then the DPP must continue to hold onto power in order that he can save his whole family.  Under this threat against existence, how can A-Bian possibly care about political morality or leaving a good name in history?  Therefore, no matter how many people show up in the streets, he will not think about quitting.

Next, on account of Lee Teng-hui, the design of the Taiwan political system was changed from the original "cabinet system" to the current "presidential system" in which the President has legal immunity and his position cannot be moved by any judgment.  There are only two ways to oust him: the recall or the no-confidence vote.  The recall requires two-thirds of the legislature and that is basically impossible.  The no-confidence vote takes a long time and it will still be impossible if a 2/3 majority cannot be attained to dismiss the Legislature.  Under this system, therefore, A-Bian does not have to worry about any opposition force.

The real force that can shake A-Bian up is the internal opposition.  The DPP continues to support A-Bian now for the following reasons: (1) the party elders are scared that the impetuous Annette Lu will succeed A-Bian and promptly destroy the existing power structure; (2) the power to nominate the candidates for the next Legislature election lies in the hands of A-Bian, so that any critical comments about him will mean the end of one's political career; (3) the most hopeful 2008 DPP presidential candidate is Su Tseng-chang, whose political fate is in the hands of Chen Shui-bian and he can be dismissed as easily as Frank Tse was last year.  These many factors caused the DPP to lose the capacity for self-reflection and be hijacked by A-Bian.

Although Lee Teng-hui is unhappy with A-Bian, he cares most of all about Taiwan independence.  In his eyes, Premier Su Tseng-chang who is more rational about the cross-strait policies is even more detestable than the corrupt Chen Shui-bian.  Recently, Chen and Lee have been interacting and it seemed entirely possible that Su Tseng-chang will be the sacrificed in return for the support of the deep-green Taiwan-independence forces.  Although A-Bian's public support is less than 20%, this group of diehards may be enough to protect him until 2008.

Even more worrisome than A-Bian staying on is the prospect that to protect his position after he leaves his  post in 2008, he may fan the cross-strait conflict into a severe blue-green confrontation in order to guarantee that the DPP will continue to rule.  The really worrying thing for good people is that an evil-minded politician would bring all of Taiwan into a crisis for his own personal interests.

Related LinkMichael Anti on Why Chen Won't Go  The View from Taiwan