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Tuesday, December 14, 2004 > Taiwan's Chen resigns as party chairman

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TAIPEI - Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian took the blame for a legislative election defeat and resigned as the leader of his party on Tuesday, a move that could help ease political feuding that has caused severe gridlock in parliament.

Mr Chen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its allies were stunned when an opposition alliance - which was disorganised and beset with squabbling - won last weekend's legislative election, taking 114 of the 225 seats.

Before his weekly party meeting, Mr Chen told reporters he was quitting his chairman post. 'Ah-bian will accept all of the criticism and blame for the election loss,' he said, referring to himself by his nickname.

He said that he hoped a new chairman would make Taiwan more 'unified, stable, prosperous and progressive'.

Mr Chen's resignation might signal that he'll try to go back to his original strategy of being a 'president for all the people' who focuses on building consensus rather than pushing a party line.

When he was elected in 2000, he promised that he would distance himself from his party and be a non-partisan president who represented all citizens. He also tried to create Taiwan's first coalition government.

But opposition parties refused to cooperate with him, saying that they could not work together with the government because it was their duty to check and balance Mr Chen's administration. During the past four years, the opposition has blocked most of his major initiatives.

Mr Sun Ta-chuan, political science professor of National Dong Hwa University, said Mr Chen alienated moderate voters mainly because he 'jumped to the front line and sharpened the confrontation with the opposition'.

Mr Sun wrote in an opinion piece in the China Times newspaper on Tuesday: 'The low voter turnout indicated people were disgusted with the overheated political scene.' -- AP

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