Sun, May 07, 2006 - Page 8 News List

KMT's strife bubbles to the surface

By Chin Heng-wei 金恆煒

Last month, former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰) traveled to Beijing to attend an economic forum between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). With the exception of KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), the party rank and file all seemed supportive of Lien's second "business" trip to China, and four KMT vice chairmen traveled with him.

To show her support for Lien, KMT Vice Chairwoman Lin Cheng-chi (林澄枝) decided to resign from her post after her return to Taiwan, and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) did more than just see Lien off and pick him up at the airport. In contrast, Ma's decision to neither see Lien off or greet him upon his return displeased Lien's supporters, and Lien is also said to have complained.

Although everyone is aware that Lien and Ma do not get along well, the incident has made the rift between the duo public. Lien said that he was rather surprised when Ma did not show up at the airport when he returned. Lien's closest aides, therefore, berated Ma, for he had made the outside world aware of the bad blood between the two.

In all honesty, according to KMT tradition, the party chairman is the one who should to be sent off and greeted, not someone who has already stepped down. Considering the power structure within the KMT, Ma's unwillingness to see Lien off or welcome him on return is hardly surprising. The question is: Why was Lien surprised? It is evident that Lien does not want to play second fiddle to Ma. After receiving a pat on the head from Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), Lien considers himself to be the second most important political figure on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Lien has held a grudge against Ma ever since he stepped down as KMT chairman. Recently he has said that "many things remain unsaid" and he must feel that Ma has given him a raw deal. The pan-green camp's criticism of the KMT-CCP economic forum was understandable.

However, Taipei mayor hopeful and Ma's "chosen" successor, former Taipei deputy mayor Yeh Chin-chuan (葉金川) has openly criticized two trade concessions in the medical field reached at the Lien-Hu meeting, a direct slap in the face for Lien. Perhaps Lien may not care what someone like Yeh, a man without power and position, said, but he will certainly blame it on Ma. The question is: If Ma had showed respect for Lien, would Yeh have dared put Lien down like that?

With Ma's popularity soaring, the only thing that can keep Ma in check is an alliance between Lien and Wang. When KMT Legislator John Chiang (蔣孝嚴), who briefly contemplated running for Taipei mayor, discovered that the party leadership was supporting a certain candidate, he turned to Lien and Wang for help. The attempt by KMT legislators to amend the Constitution may have been initiated by Hsu Shu-po (許舒博), but it is clearly supported by Lien and People First Party Chariman James Soong (宋楚瑜). It is also worth noting that although Ma is determined to back Yeh's bid for the year-end Taipei mayoral race, Lien's son Lien Sheng-wen (連勝文) has openly voiced his support for Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), a former head of the Environmental Protection Administration. The rift between Lien and Wang on the one hand and Ma on the other can no longer be kept under cover.

A new wave of conflict between the mainstream and non-mainstream factions of the KMT has begun, and the battle will be decided on the issues of constitutional amendments and the KMT's primary for Taipei mayoral nominee.

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