On the face of it, this sounds like a really stupid question. Every poll that has been done has shown a significant percentage of people who want Chen Shui-bian recalled (the percentages vary – usually reflecting the bias of the pollsters). However, I’m not talking about real people, I’m talking about politicians. It is, of course, axiomatic that every politician bases everything they do on self-interest. When Ma Ying-jeou said “Let me make it clear, the recall drive isn’t a political power game. It aims solely to attain responsible government.” all I could do was admire his deadpan sense of humour.
So, which politicians want (i.e. would benefit from) Chen Shui-bian recalled? Well, let’s look at what would happen if he were recalled:
President Annette Lu
If Chen is recalled, then the current Vice-president Annette Lu will immediately take over and serve out the rest of Chen’s term (i.e. until May 2008). That would mean:
- Someone who is a much more outspoken advocate of Taiwanese Independence than Chen has ever been would be president.
- Someone who is even less of a diplomat (more abrasive and less likely to compromise her principals to get agreement) would be president.
- A recalled Chen would lose nearly all his control over the DPP. Given that Chen is generally hindering reform and progress in the DPP now, that could only be good news for the DPP (and so bad news for the KMT).
- Despite the fact that Chen won’t be running in 2008, one of the KMT’s likely trump cards in that (and the preceding Legislative elections) would have been ‘look how badly CSB has cocked things up’. With Chen long-gone, this is much less powerful.
- One of Annette Lu’s (few) strong points is her perceived strong personal integrity and distance from any corruption scandals. A godsend to the DPP in their current scandal-ridden mess, but not for the KMT.
- One of the ways that the DPP have won elections in the past was by winding up China and causing them to do something stupid; CSB was a master at this. Although China seem to have wised up to this tactic, the only politician in the world who can rile China more than Chen Shui-bian is Annette Lu.
So, there are plenty of reasons for most pan-Green politicians to welcome a recall. On the flip side:
- The Blues might gain support for ‘saving Taiwan from the evil president Chen’. Even if this does happen (which I’m dubious about), I suspect it would only be a short-term spike in support. A year down the line, with politics in exactly the same stalemate as before, I think it will be seen as just another bit of politicking.
- There’s a good chance that Lu will do something irretrievably stupid as president (she has a long history of opening her mouth before engaging her brain).
- If the blues could arrange to recall Lu as well, then they would force new presidential elections. I’m sure Ma would love that – but recalling Lu would be harder than recalling Chen.
To my mind, the advantages for the pan-Greens far outweigh the advantages for the pan-Blues. So we have the odd situation where the pan-Blues are pushing for a recall while secretly hoping it fails, while the pan-Greens are strongly opposing the recall while secretly hoping it will succeed. (That is, of course, assuming the relevant people have thought the whole thing through … which is probably an unwarranted assumption). As I said before: A carnival of idiots.