Democracy a Buzzword After Failed Taiwan Recall of Chen

By Eugenia Chien, New American Media
Friday July 14, 2006

Politicians and observers in Taiwan and the Chinese community are using the unsuccessful recall motion to unseat Taiwan President Chen Shui Bian as an opportunity to discuss democracy, according to the Chinese-language press.  

The first-ever parliamentary vote to unseat a president in Taiwan did not receive the 148 votes needed to pass, leaving Chen to finish the remaining two years of his second term. A total of 119 lawmakers voted to recall Chen, 14 cast null ballots, and the 86 lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party boycotted the vote.  

Some 3,000 people from the opposition Chinese Nationalist Party, which brought forward the recall motion, gathered outside the legislature on the morning of the vote. The Democratic Progressive Party, which tends to favor independence from China, reported that 100,000 of their supporters gathered on the street to support Chen. Chen’s aides and the first family had been investigated for scandals such as insider trading, but Chen himself had not been charged of any crime.  

In a report in the Chinese-language World Journal on June 27, a People’s First Party representative, Pong Zhong- Ming said that the process of the recall motion, rather than the result, is more important because it illustrates the democratic process in Taiwan. Pong said that the recall motion represents the democratic right of every citizen to know what Chen has accomplished in his six years of office. Pong said that the recall motion also signals a need to investigate for corruption in government.  

The People’s First Party is a part of a coalition that, along with the Chinese Nationalist (KMT) party, wanted to oust Chen. Both the People’s First Party and the KMT party favor eventual reunification with China.  

In a World Journal report by Nancy Kao, a board member of the Monte Jade Science and Technology Association in San Jose, who wished to withhold his name, reminded the reporter that former California Gov. Gray Davis was recalled from his office and that whether Chen has done any wrong doing, the people has the right to decide whether he should step down. “We should give the power of right and wrong to the 23 million people of Taiwan,” he said. 

The failed recall motion was expected by political watchers. Analysts Hsu Yung-Ming at the Academia Sinica told the Taipei Times that the recall campaign would be unlikely to succeed. Hsu also said however that Chen would benefit from reorganizing his inner circle to improve his image and credibility. 

The recall motion “should serve as a lesson and reminder for President Chen Shui-Bian of the need to improve his administration in the last two years of his presidency,” according to an editorial in the Taipei Times on June 28. Chen’s popularity has dropped in recent years, and infighting within the party has worsened.  

Auditors are investigating Chen’s presidential office at the request of the KMT party, which has alleged that receipts produced by the office to prove no wrong doing were fake. The People First Party is seeking to dissolve the cabinet or launch another recall motion. 

However, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Michel Lu said that as long as the recall vote and the demonstrations ended peacefully, it would prove Taiwan’s democracy was still strong. 



Eugenia Chien is a reporter for the Sing Tao Daily, a member of New American Media.