Fri, Mar 11, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Lien starting to look very lonely

It has been almost one year since the attempted assassination of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) on March 19. Since then, many things have changed, but the bitterness of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) about his defeat in the presidential election not one of them. Against this backdrop, the protest the KMT plans to hold on March 19 this year is especially ironic.

One of the biggest changes since the assassination attempt is of course the relationship between the KMT and the People First Party (PFP). The PFP was a passionate and enthusiastic participant in the post-election rallies and protests against Chen's re-election. In fact, several PFP lawmakers were even seen spearheading riots in various places at the time.

But this time around, PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) has already indicated that he will not be participating in the rally. At first, he had suggested that the PFP should not participate, but later on, as a result of pressure within the party, Soong said that anyone who wishes to may go on his or her own. Many PFP lawmakers had already indicated that they would attend. This raises the question of whether Soong can effectively lead his party to cooperate with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) after his reconciliation with Chen. After all, PFP lawmakers are in general elected by the more conservative pan-blue supporters. Unlike Soong, they have to worry about being re-elected.

One year ago, there was still hope of a merger between the KMT and PFP. However, the growing rift between the two parties has made it virtually impossible for the merger to take place. One year ago, Lien, Soong and their supporters did not think they would have to worry about early retirement so soon. After the pan-blue election defeat, Lien put up a fight to maintain his grip on power in the KMT. When the pan-blue camp won a majority in the Legislative Yuan, for a while it seemed that Lien would be able to stay in the leadership throne a little while longer and resist generational succession within his party. Now, with Soong, his sidekick in the presidential election, reconciling with Chen, it will be hard for Lien to run a one-man show.

These days, with the exception of Lien and his cronies, the most important things on the mind of KMT members is the upcoming election of the KMT chairman. With all eyes fixed on the two biggest contenders -- Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) -- Lien looks a little lonely these days. In a way, the rally on March 19 can be seen as a going-away party for Lien, where he will be at the center of attention one more time.

While many people feel skeptical about the recent breakthrough in the investigation of the assassination attempt, it is hard to see what can possibly be accomplished by holding the rally. The investigation is not yet over, and the police are still searching for additional evidence. Even though nobody can deny the fact that the public has a constitutionally protected right to assemble, the mere thought of re-living the chaos and unrest spurred by the massive rallies last year is enough to cause jitters.

If people are really bent on exercising their right to assemble, participating in the planned rally to protest China's "anti-secession" law would most definitely be a more worthwhile cause.

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