Sun, Dec 24, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Wang has to play the image game

Two weeks after the Taipei and Kaohsiung mayoral elections, the question of who will run for the nation's top job has once again become the focus of media attention. Last week, speculation regarding the possibility that Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) could challenge party Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) primary was rekindled.

While Ma remains the likeliest presidential candidate for the KMT, the importance of Wang -- either as a potential challenger for the nomination, a running mate or a key figure to foster intra-party solidarity -- should not be overlooked.

The fact that Wang lost to Ma by a wide margin in the election for KMT chairman should not by any means diminish the crucial role that Wang will have to play. One of his biggest assets is the fact that he has managed to maintain good relations on all fronts -- within and outside the KMT. He also has some level of appeal within the pan-green camp.

This has a lot to do with the fact that he is a native Taiwanese and has a southern background. It is precisely because of his good relationship with elements within the pan-green camp that the rumor arose that he, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) are joining forces to form a third force to compete with the KMT and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Within the KMT, Wang has managed to maintain good relations with former chairman Lien Chan (連戰). While Lien is no longer at the helm, his connections and resources within the party cannot be overlooked. The old and conservative deep blue segments who still feel attached to Lien often feel dissatisfied with Ma's efforts to move toward the middle of the political spectrum.

This puts Wang in an advantageous position to build good relations with these elements. Because of his background, Wang is also the spiritual leader of the local or pro-Taiwan factions within the KMT. This is precisely what is so interesting about Wang -- his ability to maintain his influence and relations with so many diametrically opposed camps and individuals.

At the same time, when People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) lost by a wide margin in the Taipei mayoral election, Wang was among the first individuals to show support for him. He openly asked Soong to avoid making a hasty decision regarding his retirement from politics. Leaving aside the fact that Soong should have retired long ago, the incident shows how well-rounded Wang is.

On the other hand, this well-rounded personality is also keeping Wang from successfully challenging Ma. Taiwanese voters are hungry for major reform. The calls for a new political order simply cannot be ignored. The problem with Wang is that his personality is making it difficult for the public to believe that he has what it takes to bring about necessary change.

But the door to challenging Ma is open, mostly as a result of the mayor's recent political faux pas, of which his use of the mayoral funds is but one. Therein lies Wang's chance to prove his mettle and change his image into a reformer that Taiwan needs.

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