Taiwan opposition party rids itself of main obstacle on their path to presidency

Taiwan opposition party rids itself of main obstacle on their path to presidency
Former Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian.

TAIPEI, Taiwan - While most supporters were still reveling in its overwhelming victory in last week's elections, the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) first move as a body was to call upon the Ma administration to release former President Chen Shui-bian.

Mocked derisively as the nation's only head honcho rotting behind bars, Chen is a figure that best represents the riches-to-rags story.

Once a figure of hope among those who proudly claimed to be quintessentially Taiwanese, Chen was the first elected president who did not belong to the Kuomintang (KMT), and his best-selling point then was his rags-to-riches tale that bested the KMT's examples of inherited power; he was the "Son of Taiwan" that made people believe common folk are able to blaze a way through Taiwan's corrupted political scene.

Oddly, it was the same word that brought him down. Corruption.

With four sentences adding up to 31 years, Chen was ordered to serve 20 years in 2008.

He went, ranting and holding up his handcuffed arms as a sign of defiance, leaving a Taiwan that was one part rejoicing, one part disappointed and one part believing him innocent and framed.

And despite how that last portion dwindled over the years, his former party continued to insist that Chen was put in jail after unfair trials.

Although the claims regarding his degree on innocence vary, the DPP bigwigs - from Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen to Tainan Mayor William Lai - are adamant that Chen should be given medical parole: he is too sick to endure jail, they say.

Perhaps best described by Taipei Mayor-elect Ko Wen-je in his famous retort to opponent Sean Lien, Chen is now nothing more than a useless man.

Suffering from physical pains as well as depression, the former president's words have no impact on almost anything in society, so the rightful question remains, why would the DPP support a cause that civilians no longer care for?

Careful Calculation

The demand was nearly the first thing that came after a string of long-awaited triumphs, and it was a carefully calculated step that would bring the party closer to the biggest pot of gold: winning the 2016 presidential election.

In addition to upending the power struggle in the DPP, Tsai is a great stretch closer to the position she lost to Ma Ying-jeou in 2012, and the DPP's 13 wins gave her another leg up.

But she knew clear as anyone that the public and opposing KMT would inevitably drag Chen into the race again, all the more so when her game was getting good.

"Would you release Chen if you are elected president?" Tsai supposedly has an excellent chance of winning.

"If you release Chen, does it mean that you think he is wholly innocent, and the judges have wronged him?"

Instead of burdening herself and the party with such questions that are easily turned into accusations and means of blackmail, Tsai has directed the responsibility to the Ma administration.

Should Ma cave in to the DPP's calls, much more powerful and insistent now, he would be the man to blame if anything goes awry; political responsibilities are loaded with risk, and Tsai knew it well.

With Ma in a vulnerable state, Tsai may just get her way after Ma realises that the medical parole will not cut into the actual jail sentence. Free A-Bian, anyone?

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