( dpa ) - Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian has decided to keep Chang Chun-hsiung as premier, a spokesman said Saturday.
The latest development came just two days after the Chang Cabinet resigned en masse in line with constitutional practices ahead of the formation of a new parliament next month.
"President Chen will ask Premier Chang to stay on in order to maintain political stability in Taiwan," said Lee Nan-yang, spokesman of the Presidential Office. He said Chang will decide who to keep in his Cabinet.
Lee said the president is mulling whether to directly return the joint resignation letter to Chang to avoid trouble or to continue to abide by the constitutional method in reappointing Chang as premier.
Under Taiwan's constitution, the cabinet must resign before the formation of the new parliament, and the president, who has the power to appoint the premier, will decide on whether to name a new person or keep the incumbent.
Chang led his cabinet to resign en masse on Thursday, four days ahead of the scheduled time on Monday (January 28).
Cabinet Secretary-General Chen Chin-chun later explained the surprise move was aimed to give the president and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh more time to discuss the choices of the new line-up.
Hsieh had called for the appointment of a chief executive officer (CEO) to serve as the cabinet's head, replacing Chang in order to create a new government image following the DPP's crushing defeat in parliamentary polls.
The DPP suffered its worst election setback in January 12 parliament elections, taking just 27 of the 113 seats in the new parliament to be formed on February 1. The opposition Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT), won an absolute majority of parliament, taking 81 seats.
Poor government performance and corruption scandals plaguing President Chen, his family and chief aides had been seen as the main reasons for the DPP's drubbing in the parliament polls.
Local news reports said Hsieh's proposal had irked Chang, who decided to step down earlier, especially after Hsieh said it would be totally shameless for officials to try to stay on. The reports also said the president was offended because what Hsieh proposed had violated his autonomy. Both Chang and Chen later refuted the reports as groundless.
But on Friday, Hsieh called a halt to his CEO appointment proposal, saying the president has the power to decide the premier of his choice.
He blamed the KMT for refusing to discuss the CEO issue with the president, resulting in the abortion of his proposal. Hsieh had said there was a need for the president to discuss the choice of premier with the KMT, given that the KMT will be the majority in the new parliament.
On Saturday, Chang said he respected the president's decision, and he would lead all cabinet members to continue to work hard before its next reshuffle ahead of the inauguration of a new president on May 20.
Taiwan is to elect a new president on March 22. Hsieh is running against highly popular KMT opponent Ma Ying-jeou in what pundits have described as an uphill battle for Hsieh. Various opinion polls showed Ma has been leading by at least 20 percentage points.
Meanwhile, Ma said there is no point for the KMT to get involved in the cabinet or CEO appointment issue as the cabinet will only remain as a caretaker ahead of the presidential poll.
KMT officials also said the CEO proposal was merely a pseudo topic raised by Hsieh to canvass support from neutral voters as no CEO would be interested in a post he or she could keep for no more than four months, and also it takes more than four months for good policy to show results.