Talk of the Day -- Why the interior minister quit
Central News Agency
2014-02-26 03:46 PM
Taipei, Feb. 26 (CNA) The unexpected resignation of Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan in the late hours of Tuesday left many groping for an explanation as to why one of the few Cabinet members who enjoys wide public support would choose to step out of politics.

News that Lee was resigning leaked ahead of an announcement of a partial Cabinet shuffle intended for Wednesday. The Executive Yuan released a statement late at night to address the matter directly. Lee and Premier Jiang Yi-huah reportedly did not have a good working replationship, making the interior minister something of an outsider in President Ma Ying-jeou's otherwise tight-knit management team. His resignation comes as the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) drums up solidarity ahead of countrywide local government elections in November. Ma and Jiang were seeking to move Lee to the position of minister without portfolio. But the former academic said that if he can no longer serve as the interior minister, he would rather go back to teaching engineering. The following are excerpts of local media reports on the reasons behind his surprise resignation. China Times: With his high approval rating, Lee has consistently been surrounded by speculation that he would either move up on the political ladder or be put on a ballot. He and his ministry have been all over the front pages as the government has dealt with illegal guesthouses at Qingjing, the controversy over land expropriation in Dapu, and the problematic roll out of a new household registration computer system, among others. But while there are suspicions that his resignation could signal his candidacy in this year's local elections, Lee has consistently insisted that he is "not election material." On county and city leadership positions, Lee has insisted, "I would not want to be one even if you gave the job directly to me" -- indicating an interest in leadership but a distatste for the limits imposed by local councils. More likely than a mayoral run by Lee is that President Ma and Premier Jiang consider the seven-in-one local elections to be mid-term test for the administration, with Ma facing the possibility of losing his seat as chairman of the KMT if the party fares poorly. Jiang's removal of Lee, an apparent "obstacle" to a tightly integrated administration, shows the premier's determination for a last-minute rush to make the Ma government look good ahead of November. (Feb. 26, 2014) Liberty Times: Lee is regarded as a technocrat disinterested in partisan politics, one of the main reasons he does not fit in with Ma's administration. His focuses on the big picture while letting the little details slip has not jibed with Jiang's micromanagement style. Jiang has kept Lee on the job because he could not find a suitable replacement, while Lee has stayed on to continue the projects close to his heart. The forced removal of one of the Ma administration's few popular officials is a sign that the KMT is gearing up for war ahead of the November elections. Their message is clear: "If you're not with us, you're out." (Feb. 26, 2014) United Daily News: This Cabinet reshuffle focuses on team spirit and effective governance. Lee has disappointed the administration with a lack of attention to details, failure to give priority to long-standing policies, and an inability to effectively communicate with local government heads. Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin, for example, went straight to the president when he found himself unable to communicate with Lee over funding for the upcoming Universiade in 2017. The household registration system debacle was the latest test for Lee, leading to his reappointment as a minister without portfolio. (Feb. 24, 2016)

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