Fri, Jan 13, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Soong's gotta have it

For those long-suffering Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) supporters who have been despairing at the party's fortunes of late -- not least the limp display of the candidates for the party's chairmanship -- the cavalry may have arrived. And, as usual, the cavalry does not wear green.

People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) is now testing the waters for a run for Taipei mayor, raising the real risk of a split blue-camp vote in one of the safest blue-camp constituencies in the country. DPP supporters should rush to their nearest temples or other houses of worship and pray with all their might that he continues with this course of action, because only with his name on the ticket does the DPP candidate have a reasonable chance of winning the city back.

He may have disappointed many with his presidency, but Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) certainly delivered the goods as Taipei mayor, revitalizing the metropolis so effectively that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has spent his two terms resting on his predecessor's laurels. Yet when Ma defeated Chen for the mayor's post in 1998, Chen's share of the vote had barely changed from four years before. The result only proved that most people in Taipei City would vote for a corpse as long as it belonged to the pan-blue camp.

Soong might just be a political corpse after his party's drubbing in last month's local government elections. But the KMT should be wary. As the titular character once theorized in H.P. Lovecraft's short story Herbert West: Reanimator, "unless actual decomposition has set in, a corpse fully equipped with organs may with suitable measures be set going again in the peculiar fashion known as life," which is as splendid a description of Soong's latter-day political career as one could hope to find.

Soong has two close losses in successive presidential elections to provide him with all the motivation he needs to grasp at power until he is in his own grave. He also has the pragmatism to cut deals with the enemy that appall even the sycophants in his own party. It is entirely consistent, therefore, for him to run for Taipei mayor at the risk, yet again, of handing victory to the DPP. With no administrative power base and running out of cash, Soong needs a foothold around the Presidential Office so that he can get inside it.

Wiser heads in the KMT will be most irritated at this development, though they should hardly be surprised. For his part, Ma must be wondering what to do next. In unusually candid language, he has ruled out cutting a deal with Soong -- though it must be tantalizing for him, at the risk of a grassroots backlash, to give away Taipei City for a promise that Soong will not run for president in 2008. Because, as with Taipei City, the KMT's greatest obstacle in recovering executive power also remains in the shape of James Soong.

It didn't have to be this way. If the KMT had not withdrawn charges against Soong for stealing the party's money, Soong might have found himself in prison for the rest of his natural political life. The KMT, instead, reanimated Soong for short-term gain, recklessly indifferent to the dangers that would follow.

If Spike Lee were ever to make a biopic on Soong, it would have to be called He's Gotta Have It. And if Soong indeed runs for Taipei mayor, the resulting declarations of pan-blue camp unity may well become a Summer of Sham for the KMT. Against all expectations, 2006 is shaping up as an entertaining year for politics after all.

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