Sat, Feb 15, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Lien-Soong ticket a done deal -- almost

COOPERATION PFP Chairman James Soong is ready to take a backseat to his KMT counterpart on their parties' joint ticket for next year's presidential election

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The leaders of Taiwan's two major opposition parties, KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding on the formation of an KMT-PFP alliance and agreed to run together on a joint ticket in next year's presidential election.

This would be the first time in Taiwan's political history that two parties have formed a coalition and teamed up on a single presidential ticket.

"In a bid to meet the expectations of the general public, the KMT and the PFP have agreed to promote party-to-party cooperation and form a KMT-PFP coalition," KMT Secretary-General Lin Fong-cheng (林豐正) told a news conference yesterday, reading from a joint statement issued by the KMT and PFP.

"On the issue of who to field on the joint ticket, Chairman Soong has stated that he will respect the opinion of Chairman Lien," said Lin, alluding to the manifesto issued by Soong on Wednesday that he would respect his KMT counterpart's decision on who should be the presidential candidate and who should take the slot as running mate.

"The two parties will act according to their respective party procedures to complete a democratic nomination process to seek the public's support and approval [for the ticket]," Lin said.

The joint declaration also stated that the two parties would form a coalition government and propose a so-called blueprint for national development to tackle problem issues such as the economy and cross-strait relations.

The memorandum of understanding stated that the two parties would form a "KMT-PFP Alliance Policy-making Committee" (國親聯盟決策委員會) which would serve the thrash out issues related to cooperation between the two parties.

Reading from the memorandum, Lin said: "The committee will be chaired by both Lien and Soong with Soong acting as the convener of the committee. Aside from uniting forces for the 2004 presidential election, the two parties also agree to work together for the 2004 legislative election to win a majority in the Legislative Yuan."

PFP spokesman Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀) said that although the memorandum of understanding was not legally binding, "it does act as a constraint to both parties."

At the press conference held at PFP headquarters following the 90-minute meeting between Lien and Soong, Lien acknowledged Soong's administrative experience and more than once praised him for "being selfless and magnanimous for the sake of a greater nation"

Lien's praise for Soong was a great contrast to the KMT's attitude in the runup to the last presidential election when the party accused Soong of embezzling huge sums of money from its coffers, waged a series of negative advertisements attacking Soong's credibility and integrity and painted Soong -- who then was running his own maverick campaign -- as a greedy and deceitful billionaire.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) won the 2000 presidential election with 39 percent of the vote. Soong, who ran as an independent, obtained 36 percent while Lien, the KMT's candidate, came in third place with 23 percent of the vote.

Niether Lien nor Soong explicitly said whether they had settled the question as to who would play which role in the campaign, but it was widely understood from Lien's remarks that Soong was to be his running mate.

"I am gratified that Soong, being selfless and magnanimous, has agreed to pair with me to run in the [2004] presidential race," said Lien. When asked by the media that whether his comments suggested that the KMT-PFP partnership would field a Lien-Soong ticket for next year's presidential election, Lien replied "your statement is correct."

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