PRESIDENT CHEN APPEALS TO VOTERS WITH SIX PROMISES
Taipei, March 6 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian appealed to voters in a televised presentation of presidential candidates' political views Saturday with six promises and listed four issues as top priorities should he win re-election.
In a 30-minute televised speech, Chen said his first promise is to insist on Taiwan's sovereignty and the country's own economic identity.
In his second promise, the president said he is confident he can bring the country into the World Health Organization within two years.
The third was that the Taiwan issue has to be settled through peaceful means. Chen promised to push for the establishment of a peaceful and stable interaction framework with Beijing and normalize Taiwan's ties with Beijing.
In his fourth promise, the president reiterated his promise of political reform featuring the creation of a new constitution via a referendum by 2006 with the new constitution in place by 2008.
In the proposed new constitution, the government's power will be shared among the executive branch, the legislative branch and the judicial branch rather among than the current five branches, Chen said.
Also, the president rather than the premier will be the head of the executive branch, and the number of legislators will be cut to about half of the current 225. The government will be divided into central and local levels. The legal age will be lowered from 20 to 18, and compulsory military service will be eliminated and replaced with a professional armed forces, Chen said.
In his fifth campaign promise, Chen said he hopes to achieve his administration's economic goals, including achieving 5 percent economic growth this year, driving the unemployment rate down to 4 percent next year, and boosting the country's total research and development expenditure to 3 percent of gross domestic product by 2006.
Sixth, the president promised to continue various reforms in the fields of education, finance, the judiciary, the legislature, government and in society.
Notable among these reforms is a bill obligating political parties to return illegally amassed assets, which will force the Kuomintang to return to the country the real estate that it expropriated, the president said.
The president also listed four priorities of his agenda for next term, if he is re-elected, which are education, the economy, the underprivileged, and the quality of people's lives. He did not elaborate.
At the end of his speech the president came to the defense of his wife, Wu Shu-chen, who was put in the spotlight recently after being accused by a former business tycoon of taking off-the-books political donations from him.
Chen lauded his wife's courage and bravery especially when she embarked on a visit to the United States in 2002 when she had just undergone a medical procedure. The president said he was very anxious when he learned at his Taipei office that his wife had collapsed in Los Angeles, the last stop of her visit to the United States.
Saying that he is proud of his wife -- a woman who will do whatever she can for the country, the president warned his critics not to try to smear his wife in attempts to undermine his campaign, because the public is not so easily fooled.
(By Maubo Chang)
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