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Major parties talk tough as speaker seeks to end protest standoff

2014/03/21 19:23:00

Taipei, March 21 (CNA) Both the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) and the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) offered few signs of compromise Friday as Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng said he would seek opinions from all parties on how to resolve the dispute over a service trade pact with China.

Ker Chien-ming, chief whip of the DPP legislative caucus, said that unless President Ma Ying-jeou apologizes and the trade-in-services agreement with China -- which the opposition believes will be damaging for Taiwan's economy -- is sent back for an item-by-item review, there is no point in discussions.

Lin Hung-chih, chief whip of the KMT caucus, went to Wang's residence for talks that afternoon, although he said earlier that the ruling party's position remains that the pact is now past the committe review stage and that a legislative floor vote should be scheduled for its ultimate passage.

After his meeting with Wang, Lin said that his caucus is "open" to the possibility of having the trade pact undergo an item-by-item review in floor sessions.

The parties reiterated their respective positions following a top-level meeting called to seek an executive-legislative solution to the standoff in the legislature, which now includes a student-led protest that has shut down the legislative body.

The meeting was postponed, however, as Wang served notice that he would not attend. Calls from the president failed to change Wang's mind, according to the speaker's own account.

The president's use of Article 44 of the Constitution to call the meeting was not valid, as the article in question governs "disputes between two or more branches" of the five-branch government, Wang explained in a written statement.

As the speaker of the Legislature, Wang said, he will continue to use every possible avenue of communication and mediation while taking stock of the view of all involved parties. He said he will call for early consultations among the different legislative caucuses "when necessary."

As Ma also serves as chairman of the KMT, Wang said it is incumbent on him to promote dialogue between the ruling and opposition parties to seek an early resolution of the impasse and restore order to the Legislative Yuan.

Wang and Ma are widely believed to be on tense terms since the KMT tried to strip the legislative speaker of his party membership over allegations of influence peddling in September. A court ruled Wednesday that the move was invalid, allowing Wang to stay in the party.

Hundreds of protesters, mostly students, have occupied the Legislature's main chamber since late Tuesday in opposition to the way lawmakers from the ruling party have forced it through the lawmaking body.

The DPP has thrown its full support behind the demonstrators, with party Chairman Su Tseng-chang applauding them for their "very good and very correct" behavior.

(By Tseng Ying-yu, Cheng Wei-ting, Wen Kuei-hsiang and John Scot Feng)
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Related stories:
●March 21: DPP mobilizes to support student protesters at Legislature
●March 21: Speaker skips out on meeting, pressures president for action
●March 21: Legislative session may be extended to July due to protest

(For the latest on the Legislature occupation, click here.)