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Taiwan Lawmakers Seek President's Dismissal


Taiwan opposition lawmakers have formally submitted a bill aimed at removing President Chen Shui-bian from office. The Taiwan president is under intense pressure to resign following accusations of corruption. The bill is not expected to pass, but members of Taiwan's ruling party are preparing to discuss Mr. Chen's fate.

Opposition party lawmakers in Taiwan introduced a measure to recall President Chen Shui-bian from office, while public pressure mounted for him to step down because of alleged embezzlement.

On Friday, prosecutors indicted Mr. Chen's wife, Wu Shu-chen, on charges of diverting money from a public fund for personal use and also announced there was enough evidence to implicate the president.

Mr. Chen has admitted to falsifying some paperwork, but says the money was used purely in confidential diplomatic and security matters.

During the weekend, the opposition Kuomintang Party gained momentum for its attempt to introduce a recall motion forcing Mr. Chen from office.

But in the past 24 hours, a smaller opposition party, the Taiwan Solidarity Union, has reversed a promise it made to back the recall.

Political Science Professor Arthur Ting of Taiwan's Chengchi University says the reversal probably deals a fatal blow to the recall effort.

He said, "Basically, I think the recall is dead. It is over."

Even with the Taiwan Solidarity Union's backing, the recall measure faced an uphill battle. At least 14 members of Mr. Chen'sruling Democratic Progressive Party would have had to break ranks and back the recall. Even if the motion passed Taiwan's parliament, it would also have to succeed in an island-wide popular referendum.

Democratic Progressive Party members are scheduled to meet Wednesday and are widely expected to rally around the president, ensuring his political future at least for the short term. But if they do that analysts say they may face a backlash in regional elections next month.

Here in the capital, grassroots opponents are doggedly determined to pressure Mr. Chen to step down. Shih Ming-teh, a former chairman of Mr. Chen's party, has been living in a van for about two months in a Taipei public square where regular protests have been taking place.

Shih dismissed suggestions Tuesday by Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers that Mr. Chen could remain in office, but take a leave of absence while his wife's case is being tried.

Shih says as long as Mr. Chen stays in office, Taiwan's political stability and economic competitiveness are endangered. He says the only two acceptable solutions are a successful recall or Mr. Chen's resignation.

Mr. Chen said Sunday he would resign if his wife is convicted, but opponents say that is just a means of clinging to office, because the legal process could take years.

On Tuesday, Mr. Chen lashed out at prosecutors, saying they have improperly connected his use of secret funds with corruption. He also faulted prosecutors for failing to give him and his wife time to explain the affair in detail.

Prosecutors say they have given the first couple months to present their case, but have consistently been kept at arm's length.

Taiwan's legislature is expected to begin debating the motion to recall Mr. Chen on Friday. A vote on the measure is expected on November 24.

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