Mon, Sep 12, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Ma-Soong meeting a triumph of absurdity

By Chin Heng-wei 金恆煒

Frankly speaking, the meeting between Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) could just as well never have taken place. Call it the Ma-Soong meeting or the Soong-Ma meeting, but apart from such formalities, not one of the hoped-for results materialized.

So why did they feel they had to meet? They may well have had their own individual reasons. The PFP's most important concern was that its approval ratings are in freefall. According to a recent China Times opinion poll, the PFP's approval rating stands at 20 percent, with 51 percent of respondents disapproving of the party.

The return to the KMT of PFP supporters has caused the KMT's approval rating to bounce back to 40 percent. As far as the KMT is concerned, the return of PFP supporters is an unstoppable trend. The reason that Ma was in a hurry to meet with Soong, however, was that he wanted to solve a couple of urgent issues. He wanted to show that he has the ability to unify the pan-blue camp, and he needs to cooperate with the PFP in the year-end city mayor and county commissioner elections.

The issue of Ma's ability to unify the pan-blue camp, however, pales in comparison to the issue of cooperation in the year-end elections, since inability to mobilize his troops would be the greater failure for a party chairman.

The elections are the reason that he has worked so hard to get close to Soong.

A short while back, Ma met with the nominees for the mayoral and county commissioner elections.

The greatest pressure on him at that meeting was the issue of unifying the pan-blue camp, and some nominees even demanded that he unify factions and grassroots levels by the middle of this month.

Even Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), who refused the position as the "first" among three equal deputy chairmen of the KMT, issued a warning.

Using the situation in Changhua County as an example, he said that Hsieh Chang-chieh (謝章捷), who left the PFP and wants to be the KMT's candidate for Changhua County commissioner, is getting bolder and bolder, and that the KMT's candidate Cho Po-yuan (卓伯源) should be on the alert.

When Ma met Soong at the airport, he made no secret of the fact that he wanted to solve any problems connected to the year-end elections.

It was also interesting to hear that Chin Hui-chu (秦慧珠), the convener of the PFP's legislative caucus, had forsaken the PFP for the KMT on the very day of the meeting between Ma and Soong. In his anger, Soong even wanted to cancel the meeting. That was as much as he could say in public.

What he couldn't say was that even before he had failed to set up a meeting with Wang, Ma had given priority to a meeting with Wang over his meeting with Soong.

This verifies the rumors saying that the KMT is simply biding its time and waiting for the PFP to return to the fold.

Ma and Soong didn't even touch upon the issue of KMT-PFP cooperation, and when Soong took the opportunity to overturn the outcome of the meeting between Ma and Wang, it could well be seen as a counterattack and a warning to the KMT.

Appearances are more important than people, and Soong took his last chance to show off. The fighting between the KMT and the PFP is just drop-dead funny.

Chin Heng-wei is editor-in-chief of Contemporary Monthly magazine.

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