Tuesday August 20, 2019

TAIWAN’S LEGISLATIVE SPEAKER OUSTED IN POLITICAL SCANDAL

September 13, 2013

Just over a month after the death of a conscripted Army recruit caused protests and political upheaval in Taiwan, another scandal is threatening to cause a rift in the Chinese Nationalist Party (also known as the Kuomintang or KMT). On September 10, a KMT disciplinary committee decided to strip Wang Jin-pyng, the long-time speaker of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, of his party membership.

The decision came after Wang was accused of influence-peddling. A Special Investigation Division of Taiwan’s Supreme Prosecutor’s Office reported that Wang had colluded with Justice Minister Tseng Yung-fu to ensure that a breach of trust accusation against legislator Ker Chien-ming was not retried. Ker had been accused of embezzlement, but a guilty verdict against him was overturned by a higher court. According to the prosecution’s investigation, Wang and Tseng assured Ker that the case would not be appealed. As a result, both Wang and Tseng were accused of influence peddling. Tseng stepped down from his position as Justice Minister, while Wang was stripped of party membership. Both men denied the accusations, as did Ker Chien-ming. A court injunction issued on September 13 will allow Wang to retain his party membership for the time being.

President Ma Ying-jeou, who is also the Chairman of the KMT, argued that the KMT had no choice but to expel Wang based on the evidence. Ma said Wang had damaged the reputation of the KMT and was “unfit” to serve in the legislature. However, Wang has denied the accusations and promised to fight against the charges. He called the entire investigation “illegal” and many of his supporters agree. The evidence was gathered using a wiretap of Ker’s cellphone, which many see as an overstep by the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office. The investigators have insisted that they had the proper approval for the wiretap.

There have also been accusations that the entire investigation was politically motivated. Ma and Wang have a long rivalry, dating back to 2005 when Wang challenged Ma for the Chairmanship of the KMT. Wang would later consider running against Ma for the Taiwan Presidency in 2008, although he ultimately decided against it. Wang, who has served as Legislative Speaker for 14 years, was well-liked and influential within the Legislative Yuan (Taiwan’s parliament).

Further complicating matters, Wang was also friendly with members of the opposition party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). He was seen as a peacemaker, able to work with both sides. Ker Chien-ming, on whose behalf Wang allegedly intervened in the court systems, was the DPP caucus whip. Some have argued that Ma’s faction in the KMT saw a golden opportunity to simultaneously smear the DPP and rid themselves of a political rival in the KMT. An online petition calling for Ma to resign accused him of “illegal, unconstitutional and inhumane tactics.” Ma faces criticism from both the DPP and from Wang’s supporters within his own party.

The political scandal comes at a difficult time for Ma. The administration has been facing intense criticism for Taiwan’s sluggish economy. The August scandal involving Taiwan’s Defense Ministry further damaged the administration’s image. After going through two Defense Ministers in a one week span back in August, Ma will now have to replace his Justice Minister. Even before the Wang scandal broke, Ma’s approval rating had already reached the historic low of 15%. In fact, Wang Jin-pyng seems to have had more support than the president—at the time of the last survey, his approval rating was 45%.

It is unclear whether removing Wang as Speaker will make it easier or more difficult to pass Ma’s agenda. Some of Ma’s faction feel that Wang was slowing down the process, allowing too many objections and delay tactics by the DPP. However, Ma’s agenda includes extremely divisive issues such as approving the construction of a fourth nuclear plant and approving a new service trade agreement with China. With or without Wang, these issues face entrenched resistance in both the Legislative Yuan and in the general populace. The scandal surrounding Wang’s ouster does not seem likely to improve Ma’s image, which may mean even less support for his agenda.

In what seems to be an effort to distance Ma from the growing backlash, one of the President’s closest advisors, Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General Lo Chih-chiang, resigned from his post. Lo had been outspoken in support of Wang’s ouster. However, with Wang winning a court reprieve from the disciplinary committee’s decision, the scandal is likely to continue. A drawn-out confrontation could threaten to split the KMT, potentially benefiting the opposition DPP in the next election cycle.

 

For more information on the Wang Jin-pyng case, please see the following news sources:

BBC“Taiwan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng expelled by governing party”

Bloomberg“Taiwan’s Ruling Party Expels Legislative Speaker Over Ethics”

The China Post“KMT revokes Wang’s membership”

The China Post“President Ma is ruling Taiwan like a secret agent: DPP’s Ker Chien-ming”

Focus Taiwan“Key presidential aide resigns amid political turmoil”

South China Morning Post“Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, the quiet man of Taiwan’s KMT”

Taipei Times“Ma-Wang Showdown: Netizens criticize Ma ‘persecution’ of Wang Jin-pyng’”

 

Washington Post“Taiwan’s president, ruling party hit by scandal, rifts, anger over wiretapping”

 

For Chinese-language commentary on the Wang Jin-pyng case, please see the following news sources:

Apple Daily (蘋果日報)“王金平仍是立委? 合議庭未認定”

Liberty Times (自由時報) “政爭》王珠花為弟抱不平 批馬毫無人性”

Phoenix (凤凰) “专家:王金平长期助民进党 可能被开除党籍”

United Daily News (聯合報)“柯建銘相挺 幫王找到解套之道”

Xinhua (新华)“‘马王斗法’对国民党伤害多大?”

Xinhua (新华)“王金平还能绝地反击吗?”

 

Compiled and edited by Shannon Tiezzi