- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 4, 2006

From combined dispatches

TAIPEI, Taiwan — President Chen Shui-bian said he plans to address the nation within two days about his wife’s being charged with corruption. Meanwhile, opponents staged rallies yesterday and planned a recall motion to force him to quit because of his possible involvement.

Mr. Chen, twice elected president of the Republic of China on Taiwan, had no immediate comment on the charges, but has steadfastly maintained his innocence in the past.

“The president will speak to the public within two days,” David Lee, the presidential office spokesman, told Reuters, but declined to elaborate.

Prosecutors said on Friday the High Court would charge first lady Wu Shu-chen with corruption and faking documents in a case involving the embezzlement of about $450,000 from a special diplomacy fund.

Prosecutors think Mr. Chen is also guilty in the case, but he is immune from prosecution while in office.

Thousands of people took to the streets of the southern city of Kaohsiung yesterday to demand Mr. Chen’s resignation.

Ma Ying-jeou, leader of the opposition Nationalist party, said lawmakers will decide tomorrow whether to push for a recall referendum against Mr. Chen. The legislature would vote on the measure Nov. 24, Mr. Ma told reporters.

A similar effort in June failed to win the required two-thirds majority. But several Chen allies, including the small Taiwan Solidarity Union party, have said they will now back it. If members of Mr. Chen’s party begin defecting, the measure could succeed.

Taiwan’s biggest newspapers yesterday urged Mr. Chen to step down, and opinion polls taken after the indictment announcement indicated that more than half the public wants him to quit.

Even the pro-Chen Taipei Times was reluctant to back the president and appeared to be nudging him to resign. Its editorial said clinging to power would damage Mr. Chen’s party and drag down its legislators, who soon will seek re-election.

“This is a scenario that Chen would not want to see if he has his party’s interests at heart,” the English-language paper said.

If Mr. Chen quits, his outspoken and unpredictable vice president, Annette Lu, would likely take power. That could raise tensions with rival mainland China, which reviles Ms. Lu and has called her “insane” and “scum of the nation.”

A civil war split China and Taiwan in 1949. China insists the Taiwanese must eventually unify with the mainland and it has warned it will attack the self-ruling, democratic island if it delays reunification too long.

The vice president ignored reporters seeking comment yesterday as she attended a funeral.

The China Times said it took a poll in which 54 percent of respondents said Mr. Chen should resign. The poll, based on phone interviews with 706 persons Friday evening, had a margin of error of 3.8 percent, the paper said.

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