By Shih Hsiu-chuan
Friday, Sep 11, 2009, Page 3
Known as the first premier in the nation’s history to begin
his premiership by saying sorry — he apologized over the
announcement of oil and electricity price increases being
earlier than scheduled — outgoing premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄)
told his critics at the time that his term would “end with
While it may not be the applause he had pictured,
acknowledgment has been given for his resignation, taking
responsibility for the landslides triggered by floods
brought by Typhoon Morakot last month that claimed more than
600 lives. Political analysts, however, said Liu had no
choice but to leave his post amid a power struggle in the
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and his own lackluster
On Aug. 18, in a bid to calm public anger over the
government’s much-criticized typhoon relief operations,
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九)
promised that officials found to have mishandled the floods
would be held responsible and a Cabinet reshuffle would be
made “by me and Premier Liu together.”
Speculation on Liu’s future started then, but it soon leaned
toward Liu staying in office. Liu took everyone by surprise
on Monday when he said that his Cabinet would resign en
How things developed over the few weeks since Liu first
offered to step down on Aug. 15 suggests the background to
his resignation was not straightforward.
The announcement of Liu’s resignation came six days after he
said in an interview that the Cabinet reshuffle would be “a
little bigger than small scale.”
In the next two days, Liu did interviews with numerous cable
TV stations, which was seen as a move to change the public’s
perception of the Cabinet, its image damaged by poor and
disorganized relief work.
During the interviews, Liu answered questions without
hesitancy on his criteria for selecting new team members.
Officials whose overall performance over the past 15 months
were under par would be replaced, he said, adding that one
of the factors under evaluation would be the Cabinet’s
performance when dealing with the global financial crisis.
He also said then that the government would produce a report
on its response to the typhoon by the end of the month to
serve as a “reference for improvements” and to “restore the
truth” regarding the Cabinet’s handling of the disaster “as
there are many people jumping to conclusions.”
His remarks were widely interpreted by the media as a sign
that Liu would stay on as premier and the size of the
Cabinet reshuffle would be scaled down from the “large-scale
and comprehensive” overhaul the premier had talked about on
“From what Liu said, Liu and Ma were thinking differently
about the reshuffle. Ma wanted to hold officials responsible
by using the reshuffle, but in Liu’s reshuffle plan,
apparently that was not factored in,” said an official at
the Executive Yuan, who requested anonymity.
The official said Liu resigned to take political
responsibility for the government’s poor rescue and relief
efforts, but he had still failed to give a clear account of
“what was done wrong by which officials.”
“Despite harsh criticism of the government’s performance,
Liu had a different opinion. In a closed-door meeting with
Master Hsin Yun (星雲)
on Aug. 21, he said the government had been ‘wronged,’” the
Spokesmen at both the Executive Yuan and the Presidential
Office said Ma and Liu had reached a consensus when Liu
offered to resign that Liu stay on temporarily to get the
post-disaster reconstruction work on track.
A source close to Liu, however, dismissed those accounts.
Liu’s intention to resign had been kept confidential, the
source said, and Ma had been under pressure from both KMT
headquarters and the party’s legislative caucus to replace
“Over the 15 months, and especially when his Cabinet was
under fire following the flooding, Liu, as an individual
unaffiliated with any faction of the KMT, felt that it was
difficult to implement policies,” the source said. “Liu
therefore suggested that Ma choose someone who had the party
Director of Liu’s office, Ting Nai-chi (丁乃琪),
on the other hand, denied any drama involving Liu’s
Saying that she was the only official at the Executive Yuan
aware of Liu’s intention to resign, Ting said Liu “had been
adamant about his resignation from the very beginning.”
Aside from Ting, Vice Premier Paul Chiu (邱正雄)
was the only Cabinet official informed of Liu’s decision to
resign prior to Liu’s public announcement on Monday.
Ting, Chiu, and Chiu’s chief secretary Chen Chao-kai (陳肇凱)
all declined to comment on when Ma accepted Liu’s
resignation, giving the same vague answer that “it was one
day last week.”
Sources said there was a significant ratcheting up of
pressure on Ma to replace Liu by the party following Liu’s
“small reshuffle” remarks last Tuesday, which failed to meet
the public’s expectations.
Ting denied the speculation, saying that the message that
Liu would stay in office and the reshuffle would be
small-scale were done to maintain the morale of officials
executing imperative reconstruction work while worrying
about a possible Cabinet reshuffle.
National Taiwan University political science professor Chang
said that “people who know Liu well understand that he would
choose to leave even if Ma asked him to stay.”
“Given plummeting approval ratings for Liu, Ma and the
government, Liu knew that staying on would harm not only
himself, but also Ma,” Chang said.
Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒),
a political commentator, said there was no alternative for
Ma but to replace Liu, because only by doing so would it be
possible to boost Ma’s declining approval rating.
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