Taiwan’s governing Kuomintang Party removed the speaker of parliament over influence-peddling allegations, as President Ma Ying-jeou seeks to refocus attention on his policy agenda after a series of scandals.
A disciplinary committee yesterday expelled Wang Jin-pyng, 72, saying he damaged the party’s reputation when he allegedly told prosecutors not to appeal a not-guilty verdict in an opposition lawmaker’s breach-of-trust case. Ma, who beat out Wang for the party chairmanship in 2005, said the speaker was no longer fit to lead.
Ma is seeking to push his agenda -- including lower trade barriers with China and finishing a nuclear power plant -- through a parliament where Wang had acceded to opposition efforts to slow the process. By removing Wang, a politician who oversaw parliament for 14 years, Ma’s plan may have backfired, according to Liao I-ming, a professor of government and law at National University of Kaohsiung.
“‘Ma was trying to win the public over by showing strength, integrity and wielding a large stick in his pledge to reform,’’ Liao said. ‘‘The biggest victim in all of this is Ma as a large swath of people including his enemies will strike back.’’
Taiwan dollar forwards fell 0.5 percent, the most since June 20. Ma is battling record low approval ratings of 13 percent and seeking to quicken growth in an economy that expanded 1.32 percent in 2012, the slowest pace in three years.
Wang apologized for ‘‘creating this situation’’ and urged Kuomintang members to remain unified and carry on with the work of the legislature, according to comments carried on television network CtiTV. He denied the allegations against him, saying in a statement to the party yesterday he made the phone calls to remind justice officials not to abuse the appeals process.
It wasn’t immediately clear who will replace Wang. Candidates for speaker need the support of one-third of lawmakers to be nominated, and two-thirds of those present to be elected. Vice Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu will be acting speaker, according to parliamentary rules.
Wang was recorded on a tapped mobile phone line in June telling opposition Democratic Progressive Party whip Ker Chien-ming that prosecutors wouldn’t appeal a not-guilty verdict on him, according to a Supreme Prosecutors Office statement on Sept. 6. Ker had been accused of breach of trust in a commercial case.
Transcripts released by investigators showed Wang had told Ker that the appeal was dropped after intervention from then Justice Minister Tseng Yung-fu. Tseng resigned on Sept. 6 without admitting wrongdoing.
That was the latest in a series of resignations. Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu stepped down last month following criticism over the military’s handling of the death of an army conscript. His successor, Andrew Yang, resigned just six days after taking office amid allegations of plagiarism.
Premier Sean Chen resigned in January for family and health reasons following opposition demands that he be held accountable for the economy’s slow growth. Expansion lagged growth in the Philippines and Indonesia, both of which expanded by more than 6 percent last year.
‘‘I have no choice but to take a stand,” Ma said of Wang’s case at a conference broadcast live by Taiwan television networks. He said Wang’s disregard for judicial independence is unacceptable.
Ma is seeking parliamentary approval for a trade pact with China, which would allow companies to take controlling stakes in joint ventures across the Taiwan strait, as well as ease restrictions on Taiwanese businesses looking to set up in China. In June, Wang agreed to opposition demands for a detailed review of the pact.
Ma’s administration has sought a popular vote on the fate of an almost-completed fourth nuclear power plant that has cost $8.9 billion so far. Tens of thousands of people protested in March against using nuclear power, which accounts for one-fifth of the island’s energy supply.
“If the services trade pact is delayed in the following session, it may have some impact on financials and non-tech industries due to previous expectation,” said Chung Hsu, a Credit Suisse Group analyst. “It adds uncertainties to the stock market in the short term.”
According to an opinion poll conducted in April by cable news network TVBS, Wang, who served as legislative speaker under three presidents over 14 years, enjoyed a 45 percent approval rating.
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