Taiwan's "premier" Frank Hsieh announced his resignation yesterday, paving the way for a long-expected "cabinet" reshuffle following the ruling party's crushing defeat in local elections last month.
Hsieh, 59, told a news conference that he would formally resign with the entire "cabinet" next Monday after less than a year in office.
He was the fourth "premier" to resign in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration headed by "president" Chen Shui-bian.
Chen confirmed that he had accepted Hsieh's resignation on Monday night. "I have accepted his resignation. He has stepped down after accomplishing his job," Chen told reporters on Jinmen island.
Chen said he would nominate a new "premier" before the Chinese Lunar New Year, which falls on January 29.
Chen is being buffeted by criticism that he has become a lame-duck leader after his pro-independence DPP was defeated by the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) in December 3 polls for local government chiefs.
The KMT and its allies oppose "Taiwan independence" and favour closer relations with the Chinese mainland.
Guo Zhenyuan, a researcher with the Beijing-based China Institute of International Studies, said the reshuffle was an attempt by Chen to consolidate his power for the rest of his term. "He is trying hard to prove that he has not become a lame duck and is in control until his second and final term ends in 2008," Guo told China Daily.
"But whoever he picks as the new 'premier,' it will be of little use in regaining support from the Taiwan people for him and his party."
The researcher stressed that the DPP was defeated mainly because of the poor administrative record during Chen's five years in office, as well as his flawed mainland policy.
Since taking power in May 2000, the Taiwan leader has fuelled tensions in cross-Straits ties with his pro-independence push.
In his New Year address, Chen pledged to take an even harder line towards the mainland and tighten control over cross-Straits economic exchanges.
His rhetoric defies wide expectations for him to take a conciliatory stance on cross-Straits issues, and has drawn mounting criticism from the public, especially the business community.
"It is a big question mark whether Chen can push his tough mainland policy in the coming years, not to mention the new 'cabinet,'" Guo said.
Taiwan media have speculated that Chen will replace Hsieh with his former chief of staff, Su Tseng-chang, to shore up his poor approval ratings.