TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party mulled its choice for a new party chairman Friday after Yu Shyi-kun stepped down following his indictment on graft charges.
Yu announced his resignation Thursday and rejected a late-night request from party leaders that he stay on in his post.
He was indicted last week on charges he embezzled 2.4 million New Taiwan dollars (US$73,000; €52,000) from a special fund while he was premier and presidential chief of staff between 2000 and 2005. Yu has denied any wrongdoing in connection with the case.
At a party meeting Thursday, Yu linked his resignation to unhappiness over a proposed DPP resolution on Taiwan’s status. The resolution is to be debated at a party conference Sunday.
Yu says the resolution should make it DPP policy that Taiwan drop its official name, the Republic of China, formally announce it is an independent country and enact a new constitution.
While the final wording of the resolution has not been decided, many DPP leaders want a far milder version, fearing Yu’s uncompromising language could hurt the chances of DPP candidate Frank Hsieh in the March 2008 presidential election.
Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949, and Beijing has warned it will attack if Taiwan makes its de facto independence formal.
Nationalist presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou would almost certainly use strong DPP language on formal independence – and its implied consequence of a Chinese invasion – to attack Hsieh during the campaign.
There is no clear favorite as Yu’s successor, though some in the party are believed to favor President Chen Shui-bian, who completes his second four-year term in May 2008.
In 2006 Chen announced he was ending his role in party politics amid a series of major corruption scandals involving his family and inner circle.
In recent months, however, he has resumed a high-profile political role while countering claims he is a lame duck by leading an attention-getting campaign to secure United Nations membership for Taiwan.
Another potential candidate is former acting Kaohsiung Mayor Yeh Chu-lan, who would probably be favored by Hsieh.
Yeh is a veteran DPP activist who entered politics after her dissident husband committed suicide in 1989 rather than face arrest by the Nationalist Party government of the day.