Taiwan’s parliament speaker challenged his expulsion from the ruling party over influence-peddling claims, complicating President Ma Ying-jeou’s bid to focus attention on policy after a series of scandals.
Wang Jin-pyng, 72, sought an injunction from the Taipei District Court after the Kuomintang Party expelled him yesterday. The court will hear arguments on whether to freeze the process today, said Lai Chien-yi, divisional chief judge at the court.
The court proceeding may bog Ma down in another protracted conflict after at least five cabinet-level officials resigned this year. The president, battling record-low 13-percent approval ratings, had pressed for Wang’s ouster as he seeks to jumpstart his stalled policy agenda, which includes finishing a nuclear power plant and lowering trade barriers with China.
Any “severe conflict” that develops between Ma and parliament, where Wang held sway and had acceded to opposition demands to scrutinize some policies, could affect the island’s economy, said Eric Hsing, a trader at First Securities Inc. said by phone in Taipei. “Some important bills affecting Taiwan’s economic infrastructure including the service pact may not pass.”
Taiwan’s benchmark Taiex index gained 0.2 percent to close at 8,225.36 today. Ma is seeking to strengthen the Taiwan economy, which expanded 1.32 percent in 2012 at the slowest pace in three years and lagging the growth of neighboring economies such as the Philippines and Indonesia.
A Kuomintang disciplinary committee ruled yesterday that Wang had damaged the party’s reputation when he asked prosecutors to drop an opposition lawmaker’s breach-of-trust case.
Wang apologized for “creating this situation” and said he would pursue ways to try and stay in the Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party, 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.
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 show the speaker had told Ker the appeal was dropped after intervention from then Justice Minister Tseng Yung-fu. Tseng resigned on Sept. 6 without admitting wrongdoing.
Take a Stand
It wasn’t immediately clear who would 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. Hung Hsiu-chu, deputy legislative speaker, will be acting speaker, according to parliamentary rules.
Wang’s is the latest in a series of Ma-government departures. 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.
A services trade pact with China, allowing companies to take controlling stakes in joint ventures across the Taiwan strait and easing restrictions on Taiwanese businesses looking to set up in China, was negotiated under Ma’s administration and signed in Shanghai in June. A few days later, Wang agreed to opposition demands for a detailed examination 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.
Ma, who beat out Wang for the party chairmanship in 2005, said the speaker was no longer fit to lead. Removing Wang, a politician who oversaw parliament for 14 years, may backfire on Ma, 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.”
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at email@example.com