Thu, Sep 30, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Pan-blue split over KMT-PFP merger deal starts to widen

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AGENCIES

People's First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) failed to attend a scheduled meeting with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) yesterday morning, leading to speculation that recent comments by KMT old guard Lee Huan (李煥) might have affected Soong's willingness to meet with the KMT.

The private meeting was originally to have been about the proposed merger between the three pan-blue parties and the investigation committee into the March presidential elections, PFP party representatives confirmed yesterday. While Chinese-language media reported that PFP Legislators Lee Chin-hua (李慶華) and Chou Shi-wei (周錫瑋) both met with Lien, PFP representatives refused to comment on why Soong was missing from the proceedings yesterday.

As of press time, KMT party representatives had not confirmed the meeting's existence, but hastened to affirm positive relations between the KMT and the PFP in an attempt to control the perceived backlash from former premier Lee Huan's reported accusations that Soong is delaying the merger.

Lee reportedly told Chinese-language media Tuesday that Soong makes a habit of going back on his word.

Soong originally told him in August that the merger between the PFP and the KMT would take place before the December legislative elections and that Soong agreed to retain the name "Chinese Nationalist Party" for the party post-merger, and it is "too strange" that Soong made good on his word.

Lee is also the father of PFP legislators Lee Chin-hua and Lee Chin-an (李慶安). The two made news last week when they publicly called for an October merger of the pan-blue camp and for the retention of the KMT party name, in defiance of Soong's suggestion in late August that the merger take place in February and that the parties be united under a new name.

Lee was also reported to have said that Soong was promised a seat as the party's vice-chairman once the parties merged.

Soong, a former secretary-general of the KMT, left the party and was stripped of his membership in 2000 after failing to secure a nomination as the KMT's presidential candidate. Soong was also embroiled in a controversial financial scandal involving the embezzlement of hundreds of millions of NT dollars from party coffers. That scandal has not yet been resolved.

When contacted yesterday, KMT representatives refused to confirm what Lee had said, saying that they were not privy to the details of Lee's comments to the media and thus had no comment.

However, KMT party spokesman Alex Tsai (蔡正元) said yesterday, that everyone should be forgiving of Lee if he had said such words, since Lee is just concerned about the future of the merger.

He confirmed that a possible vice-chairmanship in the KMT for Soong had been brought up during party meetings.

Soong yesterday told reporters that he was not angry about Lee's comments, but instead sad that "they" were focusing so much on the timing of the merger, when all he is thinking about is the future and happiness of the people. Soong did not specify who he was targeting with his remarks.

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