Taiwan's Ma forces out speaker of parliament in lobbying scandal

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 11, 2013 9:41 AM
Taiwan's Ma forces out speaker of parliament in lobbying scandal

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou forced out speaker of parliament, widely seen as the government's second most powerful figure, over accusations of illegal lobbying on Wednesday, a move that could usher in a period of political instability.

Wang Jin-pyng's expulsion was decided by a disciplinary committee formed by the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), or Nationalist Party. The move strips him of his party membership and removes him from his position as head of Taiwan's legislature.

Some analysts say the move could hit the island's financial markets, predicting its TAIEX index could drop to as low as 7,800 points from 8208.99 on Wednesday.

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is likely to make political capital out of the case amid deteriorating popularity ratings for the president after a series of cabinet departures.

"Many in the KMT would say Ma is making a crazy move," said Zhang Zhexin, a Taiwan politics expert at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies.

"With Wang kicked out of party, the DPP could make this their political card, and use Wang to challenge KMT rule."

Wang was accused of pressuring prosecutors not to appeal against a not-guilty verdict in an opposition lawmaker's breach-of-trust case.

Ma had condemned it as "the most serious infringement" of the independence of Taiwan's judiciary.

"Speaker Wang cannot avoid the most critical issue - the fact that he had lobbied the case," the president said.

Wang, who returned to Taiwan late on Tuesday from Malaysia, denied the accusations and said Ma has been misled by the Special Investigation Division, which is under the Supreme Prosecutors' Office.

Giant neighbor China considers Taiwan a breakaway province to be eventually unified with the mainland, by force if necessary. The two have been governed separately since the Communist Party won the Chinese civil war in 1949 and the KMT fled to Taiwan.

Wang, 72, who has been the speaker since 1999, regularly undermined Ma's control of the KMT and was able to rally the DPP to oppose Ma's policies.

(Reporting by Faith Hung in TAIPEI and Paul Carsten in BEIJING; Editing by Nick Macfie)