Taiwan Premier, Cabinet step down despite President Ma's urges for reconsideration

Taiwan Premier Mao Chi-kuo.
PHOTO: Reuters

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Premier Mao Chi-kuo, leading members of the Cabinet, announced his resignation on Monday at the Executive Yuan, despite President Ma Ying-jeou's urges for a reconsideration.

Speaking in his last speech as premier to members of his Cabinet, Mao named Vice Premier Chang San-cheng acting premier. He will step down from his post until "necessary transitional procedures" are completed.

"The new public consensus has been formed with the ending of last weekend's elections," Mao said. "In respect of this, and to also ensure the smooth execution of future government matters, I have tendered my resignation to the president and announced a Cabinet reshuffle."

His speech was released through a press release, and quoted by Cabinet spokesman Sun Lih-chyun.

According to Sun, President Ma visited Mao at his personal residence around noon on Monday, in hopes of dissuading the now-former premier from resigning.

The two did not meet: according to local media, Mao's wife answered the door while Mao, reportedly inside the house, did not come out to greet the president, leaving him outside for around five minutes.

"Mao Chi-kuo's resolve to resign and instigate a Cabinet reshuffle has not wavered," Sun said.

The spokesman quoted Mao: "The new majority party in the Legislative Yuan should form the new Cabinet as a constitutional precedent" so as to avoid a government shutdown.

Local media reported that Ma has failed to reach the former premier by phone since Jan. 16.

President Ma, who has yet to approve Mao's resignation as of press time, reiterated his call for President-elect Tsai Ing-wen to reconsider his proposal to form her own Cabinet as the majority party's leader.

The Ball Is in Ma's Court

"If President Ma does not approve Mao's resignation, all of the Cabinet members will not be allowed to leave their posts by statute," Chang stated in an interview with the media, though he denied more specific knowledge regarding Mao's resignation.

Mao will need to stay in his post as premier if Ma refuses to allow the Cabinet to step down en masse, he said.

Acting Premier Chang has also expressed his support of a Cabinet formed by the majority party in the Legislature. "It's absolutely reasonable," he said.

"I think if polls are conducted, isn't this what the public also expect?" Chang asked rhetorically.

In response to media questions on Ma's hope that Mao would reconsider his decision for the sake of the nation, Chang said, "this is something that should be said to (President-elect) Tsai Ing-wen."

No 'constitutional room': DPP

DPP Secretary-General Joseph Wu reiterated Tsai's statement made on election night - "the Constitution allows no room" in the matter of the majority Legislature party forming the Cabinet.

"Appointing the Cabinet is the president's prerogative," Wu said to the press at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, prior to leaving for a visit to the US "What we need to do now is to allow a smooth transition."

Meanwhile, former DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang gave a pessimistic view.

Unless President Ma clearly states his respect for the new president-elect to allow the majority party in the Legislature to form the Cabinet "and remains as a figure head," - which will allow room for the DPP to "shoulder responsibilities" - it will "become a mess," Su said.

He had been visiting local figures to thank supporters for voting for his daughter, Su Chiao-hui, who secured a legislative seat in a New Taipei City district.