Taiwan Leader Survives Bid to Recall Him

The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 27, 2006; 12:57 AM

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwanese leader Chen Shui-bian on Tuesday survived an opposition-led bid to recall him over allegations some of his relatives engaged in insider trading, an issue that has hijacked his presidency in recent weeks.

Only 119 lawmakers in the 221-member Legislature voted for the recall measure _ far short of the two-thirds majority _ or 148 ballots _ needed to pass the motion calling for a referendum of Taiwanese voters on whether to oust Chen. The ruling party's 86 members boycotted the vote.

Thousands of supporters with the ruling and opposition parties rallied outside the Legislature, raising fears the two sides might clash. But hundreds of riot police kept the crowds separated with metal barricades and barb wire.

Chen was the first president in Taiwan's history to have recall proceedings initiated against him. The island directly elected its first president in 1996.

After the vote, he issued a statement saying, "The president wants to apologize again because my personal life and family caused such great controversy with a big social cost."

But Chen urged the opposition to be rational, stop the political confrontation and strive for social harmony.

The recall controversy erupted last month when Chen's son-in-law, Chao Chien-min, was arrested on suspicion of insider trading. The first lady, Wu Shu-chen, has also been accused of illegal financial dealings, and the claims are being investigated.

Chen hasn't been directly linked to any wrongdoing, but the opposition claimed he has lost the public's confidence and should resign with two years left in his second term. The president has repeatedly refused to step down, saying the legal system should deal with graft allegations.

The opposition hoped to find more evidence of corruption that would cause lawmakers with Chen's Democratic Progressive Party to defect to their side. But ruling party legislators stuck with the president and boycotted Tuesday's vote.

"We thought the recall motion was just part of the opposition's power struggle and it caused political turmoil, so we unanimously decided not to enter the floor to cast our ballots," said Ker Chien-min, the ruling party's legislative caucus leader.

Chen's foes continued to call for his resignation.

"Over half of the legislators voted to recall him, so he should quickly tender his resignation," opposition leader James Soong said.

© 2006 The Associated Press