Sun, May 23, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Lien using merger as a lifeline

During a meeting with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) on Friday, KMT lawmakers openly questioned Lien about the purpose and meaning of a merger with the People First Party (PFP). This is a move that has rarely been seen in the highly conservative KMT culture, in which the party chairman continues to be exalted in a feudal manner.

In reality, after Lien announced a plan to push for the merger, skepticism and resentment within the party, especially from the nativist factions, have been loud and prevalent. After all, the merger is practically suicidal for the KMT as a party, although a small group of people have much to gain -- namely Lien and his loyal supporters.

The merger efforts can be interpreted as the latest counter-strike by Lien's group against pressure for generational succession by Vice Chairman Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), as well as the adoption of a moderate and nativist path by the party.

Obviously, once the KMT undertakes this enormous merger project, Lien and his gang would have new reasons to stay on and delay generational succession, claiming that they must finish what they started. This excuse comes in handy, because the legitimacy of their previous lifeline -- that they must stay to deal with the controversies surrounding the presidential election -- has been fading while the possibility that the recount will overturn the result of the election becomes more and more remote.

Bringing back PFP members to the KMT -- people who had left the KMT mostly due to their inability to identify with the nativist path previously embraced by the party during former chairman Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) reign -- will turn the tide in the current debate regarding the future direction of the party even further against nativization. In a way, this will also delay and possibly eliminate all possibility of Wang and Ma taking over the leadership. After all, if the party is to align toward the middle and Taiwanese consciousness, Wang and Ma would serve as much better leaders than Lien and PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜).

Interestingly, of the six vice chairmen of the KMT, Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) was the only one absent from the meeting of the party's Central Standing Committee on Wednesday in which the plan to push for a merger was unanimously approved.

It was only earlier this month that the policy and strategy committee headed by Siew had announced the plan to search for a "nativist discourse" as the basis of the party's values, and that Siew had openly called for generational succession within the party. Consequently, it is not hard to guess the reason for Siew's absence. As for the other five vice chairmen who attended the meeting and endorsed the approval, one can only ponder what has happened to their moral courage.

The merger with the PFP, which is considered a radical anti-nativization party, will cause the KMT to relinquish the support of the pro-nativization voters -- which is the biggest voting segment -- leaving the Democratic Progressive Party and the Taiwan Solidarity Union with no competition for that market. That was why the Lien-Soong ticket lost the presidential election. But Lien still seems unable to figure out this simple logic.

As for KMT lawmakers of the nativist faction, they face a serious dilemma: They need the nomination and the campaign resources of the party for the upcoming legislative election, and therefore they do not yet dare to openly revolt against Lien. However, they know only too well that the merger would be bad for their re-election, so their last hope is to at least delay the merger until after the election. But it is unlikely that their voice would be heard by Lien, who is looking increasingly like a party dictator these days.

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