Wed, Dec 14, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Don't hold out for a KMT-PFP merger

On Monday, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) held a high-profile meeting. For those still clinging to the hope of a merger between the two parties, disappointment was inevitable. The meeting indicated that a merger is not realistic in the foreseeable future.

While a formal merger is not about to take place anytime soon, further downsizing of the PFP is inevitable as more members abandon it to return to the KMT.

Particularly motivating for those in the PFP who have been pining for positions of influence was the example set by Taipei County commissioner-elect Chou Hsi-wei (周錫瑋). Chou defected from the PFP to rejoin the KMT, defeated several strong opponents to win the KMT's nomination for this key district and went on to win the election.

At the time Chou left the PFP, he faced a lot of skepticism. After all, the PFP and Soong had been very good to him, and yet he chose to leave the party when it was about to disintegrate -- in line with the decline of Soong's popularity among constituents.

However, none of that seems to matter anymore.

By helping the pan-blues retake Taipei County 16 years after it was first lost to the Democratic Progressive Party, Chou has become a hero -- at least to some. Under the circumstances, no wonder the rumblings from within the PFP in favor of a merger are getting louder. Differences within the PFP between opponents and supporters of the merger are about to come to the surface.

Soong must feel disheartened. Still, there is just no incentive for him and his gang to opt for a merger. What can they possibly get out of it?

Meanwhile, things are looking up for Ma after leading his party to victory in the local elections. The Ma era in the KMT has arrived and there is no room for Soong. In particular, Soong is seen as being from the generation before Ma. It would be insulting for him to return to the KMT if it meant that he had to settle for a position beneath Ma.

The best shot left for Soong is to run for Taipei mayor. This is something that he would not have considered before. After all, he had already served as governor of Taiwan Province and Ma, someone junior to him, is finishing off a second term as Taipei mayor. However, as a politician, Soong needs a stage where he can perform and win support. Serving as Taipei mayor would do exactly that. The PFP needs Soong's personal allure and charisma to continue, so Soong must make a run for it.

While Soong may not be willing to merge the PFP with the KMT, some level of cooperation is still required -- in the legislature, the upcoming elections and so on -- even if it is only for show to please die-hard pan-blue supporters. So the meeting on Monday was necessary, even though nothing substantive was apparently discussed. But a second meeting was not scheduled, and no mechanism for regular negotiation was established.

As far as the KMT and Ma are concerned, there is no need to concern themselves too much about the lack of progress toward merging. Given time, most PFP members will return to the fold.

Politics can be cruel sometimes.

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