President Chen to forge ahead with national security alliance

The China Post staff

After winding up an African tour to shore up the nation’s foreign relations, President Chen Shui-bian is now turning his attention to domestic political affairs and the formation of a cross-party national security alliance. President Chen has invited lawmakers of the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), the major ally of Chen’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party, and non-partisan legislators to discuss the issue and other affairs concerning constitutional amendments next week. Sources said that Chen also wanted to discuss ways to lure opposition Kuomintang’s (KMT) lawmakers into the alliance.

President Chen decided to push for the formation of the national security alliance to enhance political stability. Chen is also seeking to hold a cross-party summit with all major political forces to exchange views on issues, including the issue of revising the presidential election system so that the candidate who takes the absolute majority of popular votes will be declared the winner.

However, both the KMT and its ally the People First Party (PFP) said Chen was masking his real motives. KMT lawmakers argued that mutual trust was necessary before a summit could be held.

Speaking at a joint news conference, Huang Chao-shun, deputy executive director of the KMT’s Policy Coordination Committee, noted that the Constitution had been amended various times over the past decade during the tenure of former President Lee Teng-hui and added that she did not understand what Chen’s purpose was in mentioning the issue now.

She urged the president to take measures to improve Taiwan’s economy and meet public demand before embarking on another round of changes.

“If the president is going to hold a summit with leaders of other political parties, economic issues should be the focus,” she said.

KMT spokeswoman Kuo Shu-tsun said it is hard to keep up with the cursory and frequent flip-flops of a national leader. She said that since Chen “has gotten used to holding the Bible in one hand and a sword in another,” the KMT is baffled about whether Chen is holding out the Bible or a sword this time. PFP Legislator Liu Wen-hsiung criticized President Chen for making certain statements abroad and then making entirely different remarks at home. He said this has helped to eliminate any mutual trust between the ruling and opposition camps. Liu said the president should first clarify his earlier statements that the teaming up of KMT Chairman Lien Chan and PFP Chairman James Soong is equal to “cutting their own lifelines.” He said Chen should also explain to people the necessity of the national security alliance. President Chen said aboard his flight home from Africa that he has never given up on the idea of holding a summit with the leaders of the “pan-blue” opposition camp to pursue a better and more stable direction for Taiwan’s development.

The president said that as long as they — mainly KMT Chairman Lien and PFP Chairman Soong — agree to the proposal, he is willing to discuss sensitive issues, such as new constitutional amendments. Chen said the president should respect the Legislative Yuan and try to build mutual trust with the majority opposition lawmakers before seeking to make constitutional amendments. “As long as the president respects the legislature, the two sides will be able to sit down to talk,” he claimed.

The pan-blue pro-unification force of the KMT and the PFP enjoys a slim margin in the 225-member Legislative Yuan over the pan-green pro-independence camp dominated by the ruling DPP.