Sun, Jan 30, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Soong playing a complicated game

Yesterday, People's First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) finally came back from his US trip. Soong's return was eagerly anticipated, preceded by repeated speculation about the exact date of his return and alleged secret meetings between him and envoys sent by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). Furthermore, Soong was greeted by an extraordinary reception at the airport yesterday: Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) were both there. Based on what had transpired, it's easy to think that Soong was some kind of hero returning from a successful conquest overseas. But that couldn't be further away from the truth.

In fact, Soong had just suffered a devastating defeat right before his departure to the US. In the legislative election his party lost the most seats of any. A few months earlier, the team of Chinese Nationalist Party Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and Soong as candidates for president and vice-president was also defeated. Soong had considered returning to the KMT by merging his party with theirs. However, with Wang and Ma far ahead of him in line for succession to the KMT leadership, his return would be highly risky. Given his situation, some were even describing Soong as at the end of the road of his political career.

Soong has the political chaos in the Legislative Yuan to thank for his miraculous ascent back into political favor. Still unable to win enough seats to enjoy a legislative majority, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is worried sick that the nightmare scenario of the past four years -- in which a pan-blue legislative majority made up of KMT and PFP lawmakers cooperated to block much important work -- will continue.

The DPP will do just about anything to win the PFP's cooperation. Take for example the upcoming election for the Legislative Yuan speaker and vice speaker. The DPP has indicated that it is keeping all options open -- including supporting PFP candidates for both the speaker and vice speaker offices -- in the hope of wooing over the PFP. In fact, it's generally believed that President Chen deliberately postponed the announcement of the appointment of the next premier, just in case Soong would be interested in the post.

On the other hand, as much as Soong loathes Chen, he has also been waiting for the chance to teach the KMT some lessons. In retrospect, the frictions between the PFP and KMT were probably inevitable. Soong can never forget how close he was to the presidency in 2000, when he trailed Chen by a thin margin of votes. He must have felt belittled in agreeing to serve as Lien's sidekick in last year's presidential election, which made it easy for him to feel taken for granted and taken advantage of in cooperating with the KMT.

At first Lien and the KMT probably thought talk of cooperation between DPP and PFP was a big joke. After all, the two parties couldn't be further apart in terms of political ideologies. However, the two arch-enemies experimented with cooperation in the review of the bill seeking to regulate ill-gotten assets. That finally got the KMT's attention.

Realizing that he is now the crucial political weight that will determine which side of the seesaw comes up and which side down, Soong wouldn't say -- even as late as yesterday -- whether he will support Wang for the speaker's office. The problem is this: here in Taiwan, it's sometimes hard not to feel saddened about how power is obtained.

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