Taiwan lawmakers mull Chen referendum
January 5, 2007 8:17am CST
TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan's parliament has agreed to hold an additional session to decide whether to hold a referendum on ousting President Chen Shui-bian amid corruption allegeations involving his family. Outside parliament, dozens of opposition supporters chanted slogans demanding Chen step down. But the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party and the smaller People First Party (PFP) face an uphill battle if they are to succeed in persuading parliament to back a popular vote to decide if Chen should go. Lawmakers will now continue discussing a referendum, which requires the support of two-thirds of Taiwan's current 221-member legislature before it can be presented to voters for approval, until June 30. "The KMT and PFP are simply seizing the additional session as an opportunity to undergo power struggle," Ke Chien-ming, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) party whip at the legislature, told reporters. Chen's problems have escalated in recent weeks amid corruption scandals allegedly involving his wife and at least one of his top aides and an insider trading scandal implicating his son-in-law. However, DPP officials have said none of the scandals has been proved directly linked to the president and the referendum motion was unlikely to be passed by parliament. "There is no such issue about (me) taking office. The president has the strongest determination and the sense of responsibility to complete his term," Vice President Annette Lu said earlier Saturday. In an apparent bid to ease mounting pressure over the scandals, Chen relinquished some of his powers to the premier earlier this month but critics have said the gesture did not go far enough. Chen ended the KMT's 51-year grip on power in the 2000 presidential vote. He was narrowly reelected in 2004 for a second and final four-year term. The KMT and the PFP also agreed to discuss an 80 billion Taiwan dollar (2.46 billion US) special budget for various anti-flood projects demanded by Chen's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The DPP insisted only anti-flood and related projects be reviewed in the additional session, but its proposal was blocked by the opposition who control a slim majority in parliament.