Mon, Oct 23, 2006 - Page 8 News List

KMT and PFP cooperation a mirage

By Liu Kuan-teh 劉冠德

The recent political wrangling between Chinese National Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his People First Party (PFP) counterpart James Soong (宋楚瑜) over the latter's decision to run in the year-end Taipei mayoral race has highlighted a new split within the pan-blue camp.

The KMT's big win in last December's local three-in-one election, which ignited a wave of defection of PFP legislators and city councilors to the KMT, has cast a shadow over any future KMT-PFP cooperation.

Ma's two-handed strategy in dealing with Soong -- as manifested by the KMT's gradual assimilation of PFP's constituency while maintaining an image of a united pan-blue front -- arises from the KMT's need of the PFP's 20 seats in the Legislative Yuan to form an absolute majority to counteract the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government.

Refusing to be labeled a political "has-been," Soong took advantage of Ma's moderate approach to move back into the public eye by proposing a series of radical measures to ride on public anger over corruption scandals relating to President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) family and close aides.

While the PFP's extremist appeal to recall the president in June failed, it has successfully drawn media attention and put Soong back in the spotlight.

Ma, meanwhile, has chosen to maintain a cautious stance and sought to keep a distance between his party and Soong and the PFP.

When the results of the month-long anti-Chen movement initiated by former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) ironically led to declining support for the KMT's mayoral candidates in Taipei and Kaohsiung cities, Soong saw his opportunity and announced his bid for the Taipei mayoral seat despite the fact that the KMT has already nominated its own candidate, Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌).

In an effort to prevent a repeat of the 1994 Taipei mayoral election, when two pan-blue candidates split the vote, giving the then-DPP-candidate Chen Shui-bian a surprise victory, the KMT had been negotiating with the PFP, hoping to dissuade Soong from competing with Hau -- apparently to no avail.

Soong has two objectives in running: preserving the PFP's influence and raising his own political stake, giving him more bargaining chips in future negotiations with Ma. Soong's candidacy has had a direct impact on Hau, who has seen his poll ratings drop following the announcement.

Ma's disclosure of his secret meetings with Soong and the PFP chairman's alleged demand that Hau withdraw from the race as a condition for future KMT-PFP cooperation last Friday was a manifestation of a "marriage of inconvenience" between Ma and Soong.

Not only do the two lack sincerity and depth in their commitment to such a cooperation, but both parties used the meetings to further their own goals.

Soong needed new forces to unleash the internal pressures that are threatening to break up the PFP.

Ma, meanwhile, used a proposed cooperation between the two parties to further secure his leadership within the pan-blue camp. Adopting the "good cop" strategy, Ma said he would like to demonstrate the "maximum sincerity and the greatest goodwill" to pursue cooperation with the PFP, while at the same time trying his best to "steal" PFP seats in the legislature.

Ma need not make any concrete offers because all he wants is to build up an "image" of pan-blue unity. As such, he is unlikely to accept any preconditions from Soong.

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