Court allows Taiwan Parliament speaker to keep job

TAIPEI (AFP) - A court ruled on Wednesday that Taiwan's ruling party has no right to expel the embattled parliamentary speaker, in a case which has divided the party and hit the popularity of President Ma Ying-jeou.

Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, a political heavyweight known for his grassroots influence in the south, was accused of meddling in a corruption case against opposition lawmaker Ker Chien-ming.

The ruling Kuomintang party stripped Mr Wang of his membership last September, meaning he would also have to step down as Speaker.

But the 73-year-old won a provisional legal injunction suspending the ruling.

On Wednesday the Taipei district court ruled that Mr Wang should keep his party membership.

Kuomintang officials were not immediately available for comment about whether the party would appeal the latest ruling, but the party's lawyer described it as "baffling".

Mr Wang was suspected of asking then-justice minister Tseng Yung-fu and a top prosecutor not to appeal against the acquittal of Ker in 2012. Mr Tseng resigned in September over the case.

Mr Ma had said Mr Wang was "unfit" to head the legislature after he was accused of influence-peddling.

But the president's popularity plunged to an all-time low of 11 per cent in the wake of the controversy, according to an opinion survey last September.

Some 55 per cent disapproved of the Kuomintang's move to sack Mr Wang and just 17 per cent approved.

Recent surveys show that Mr Ma's popularity has continued at low levels since then.

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