Fri, Feb 18, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Lien poses obstacle to Ma's goals in the KMT

By Chin Heng-wei金恆煒

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has finally expressed his willingness to run for the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) chairmanship in the May elections.

Since Ma revealed his intention to join the race, the whole situation seems to have become a contest between Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and Ma. Because Wang has long intended to contend for the chairmanship, it was not unexpected that KMT Legislator Lee Chuan-chiao (李全教) took the initiative to launch the signature drive aimed at asking pan-blue lawmakers to endorse Wang's candidacy. Lee even urged Ma to drop his intent of "giving the chairmanship a try."

Ma's announcement was not made out of the blue, but was the result of careful thought. His reputation was badly damaged by the incident involving the transfer of a critically injured four-year-old girl from Taipei to Taichung for urgent brain surgery last month.

However, Wang's political career has been looking up since last December's legislative elections. Given this contrast, it is understandable that Ma is doing everything to escape his current political slump.

KMT Legislator and Ma supporter Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) once asked frankly whether it would be right, given the KMT's culture, for Ma to campaign for the 2008 presidential elections as KMT vice chairman. This is an even clearer indication that Ma's contention for chairmanship is a prelude for seeking the presidency in 2008.

Therefore, Ma has burned his boats and has no choice but to forge ahead. It is hardly a surprise that he has been portrayed as Wang's rival. In fact, Ma's rival is not Wang, but KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰). Wang made Lee halt a signature drive, and said that he will make his decision [to run for the KMT chairman] only if Lien refuses to pursue another term. Prior to that, Wang has refused to commit himself either way. From this viewpoint, the obstacle that Ma is now facing is Lien, not Wang.

Certainly, there is currently no trace of Lien being humble and retiring; on the contrary, he seems to have a number of irons in the fire. First, Lien wants to ensure the integrity of party assets, and will certainly not accept any kind of settlement. This is one reason that Lien won't permit KMT Vice Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) to accept the post of vice premier.

Lien frankly pointed out that it would put Chiang in an awkward situation to examine his own party assets if he took the post of vice premier.

Second, he wants to hang on to the KMT-owned China Television and the Broadcasting Corporation of China, and therefore broke off negotiations with Sycamore Ventures to retain control over these media mouthpieces.

Third, the old guard all back Lien: some posting advertisements, some openly criticizing Wang and Ma, and still others opposing the transition of power to the next generation, all as part of the show of support for Lien's continued leadership.

Wang has a better understanding of Lien than Ma does. Wang's tackling of issues such as last year's presidential election, the 319 Shooting Truth Investigation Special Committee Statute (三一九槍擊事件真調會條例) and the two election lawsuits all served Lien's purposes. In the same way, Wang has won Lien's support, and his post as first-ranking legislator-at-large was not earned without effort.

Lien accepts Wang's veneration, and believes that Wang truly understands him. If Lien does not run for another term, Wang will definitely be the favored candidate for chairmanship, and Lien can continue to exercise his influence behind the scenes.

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