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Bills set up recall vote in Taiwan

By Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan's legislature adopted bills Tuesday clearing the way for a recall vote against President Chen Shui Bian as early as next week. A few hours later, a senior leader of the opposition Nationalist Party said Chen must surrender control of foreign policy, including negotiations with mainland China, if he wants to save his five-month-old presidency.

The demand, made by the party's deputy secretary-general, Yu Ming Shaw, has been the most specific by a senior Nationalist official. It immediately raised the stakes in the political crisis that has marred Taiwan's first democratic transition of power from the long-ruling Nationalists.

The crisis began with anger over Chen's decision to stop construction of a $5.5-billion nuclear power plant outside Taipei, but it has quickly become an all-out struggle over who should govern the island: President Chen or the Nationalists, who control a majority of seats in Parliament.

Shaw, the third-highest ranking official in the Nationalist Party, said that Chen must dismiss his prime minister and Cabinet and allow the Nationalists to form a new government if he wants to avoid a recall vote.

The president's aides said he has no intention of ceding power to the Nationalists, who ruled the island for 55 years before Chen defeated them in March.

"They're living a dream world. They just can't believe they're no longer the ruling party," Wilson Hsin Tien, director of international affairs for Chen's Democratic Progressive Party, said after being told of Shaw's remarks. "Why did we work so hard to elect Chen president if he doesn't get to implement his policies?"

Opposition to nuclear power and support for Taiwanese independence are the main planks of the Democratic Progressive Party.

The recall measures passed Tuesday will take effect within two weeks. Then, if two-thirds of Parliament supports a recall, a public referendum on the fate of Chen would be held within 60 days.

Chen's hold on power has been precarious from the start, because he was elected in a three-way race with only 39 percent of the vote and because his party controls only 67 seats in the 220-member legislature. By contrast, the three opposition parties are just six seats short of controlling the two-thirds needed to pass the recall motion.

PLANE CRASH: Investigators in Taiwan confirmed for the first time Tuesday that it was a crane that ripped open the belly of the jumbo jet as it hurtled down the wrong runway. Eighty-two people died in the fiery takeoff attempt.

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