Taiwan's cabinet resigns

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Monday, January 24, 2005

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Members of the Taiwanese cabinet—the Executive Yuan Council—have resigned en masse to pave way for the new cabinet. It is not expected to cause any major change on Taipei's policy toward Mainland China.

"The cabinet has tendered its resignation," Chen Chi-mai, spokesman for the cabinet, told a news conference on Monday.

The entire 20-member cabinet, including Premier Yu Shyi-Kun, tendered its resignation to give President Chen Shui-bian a free hand in choosing a new set of ministers.

The move follows the parliamentary election last December, in which President Chen's Democratic Progressive Party and its allies failed to win a majority over the rival opposition coalition, led by the Nationalist Party of China — also known as Kuomintang (KMT).

In Taiwan's political system, the president is the head of state and appoints the premier, who heads the cabinet and runs the day-to-day affairs of government. The premier liaises with parliament (the Legislative Yuan), which has the final say over lawmaking.

President Chen is expected to name the new premier on Tuesday. Whomever is appointed will form a new cabinet in consultation with Mr. Chen. Mr. Chen is widely expected to name Frank Hsieh, the mayor of Kaohsiung City and close ally, to this post. The choice of premier may signal Mr. Chen's desired successor for 2008 when his two-term limit ends. Several key members of the outgoing cabinet are expected to retain their jobs.

Philip Yang, political professor at the National Taiwan University, doesn't expect Taiwan's policy towards the People's Republic of China to change much with a new cabinet.

"It is expected that those cabinet members who are in charge of cross-strait relations will remain unchanged. So I believe in terms of policy, there will be no major changes," he said.

Beijing sees Taiwan as a breakaway province and has threatened to attack if independence is declared. Pro-independence supporters, such as Mr. Chen, maintain there are two countries. The two sides split amid civil war when the Communists established the People's Republic of China on the mainland while the Nationalists moved their government to Taiwan and maintained the seat of the Republic of China, which the Communists regard as defunct and illegitimate.

Mr. Chen won re-election in last year's presidential election by a narrow margin, but his pro-independence party then failed to gain a majority in the December parliamentary elections as had previously been predicted.

Analysts suggest the military threat and the growing economic relationships between the two sides swayed Taiwan's voters to not provoke Beijing. Professor Yang thinks if there are going to be changes in Taiwan's new cabinet policy towards mainland China, it will result from public pressure to reduce tensions.

"In terms of policy there will be no major changes, but definitely some pressure from the people and from the parliament," he said. "[They] would ask the government to be more active to improve cross-strait relations."

The new cabinet will take office on February 1, along with the new parliament.