Tue, Feb 15, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Ma to make bid for KMT leadership

SEEKING POWER The Taipei mayor finally gave in to media grilling about his intentions, while a signature drive for his likely competitor stopped

By Ko Shu-ling and Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for the first time publicly expressed his intention yesterday to run for the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) chairmanship in May elections, while the signature drive initiated to support Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) for the post came to an abrupt halt.

Citing Wang's reservations about the signature drive, KMT legislator and Central Standing Committee member Lee Chuan-chiao (李全教) who had planned to launch the campaign yesterday, said that he still considered Wang more suitable for the job.

According to Lee, he cancelled the drive because Wang expressed concern over the initiative and the impact that it might have on the party.

"He thought that it was inappropriate for me to launch the signature drive, and he was worried that the campaign might confuse some party members," he said.

Lee had planned to solicit support from fellow legislators to back Wang as KMT chairman.

However, Lee said that he would respect Wang's wishes regarding the position, and that his drive would only be effective if current party Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) decided not to pursue another term as chairman.

Commenting on Ma's announced intention to run in the chairmanship election, Lee said that he thought it was a good thing, and that he and Ma are good friends.

Ma, who has been dogged by the media about whether he would campaign for the job, yesterday finally said that he "is willing to give it a try" for the sake of reforming the party, cooperation between the KMT and People First Party (PFP) and the integration of the pan-blue camp.

Ma's remark followed Lien's call yesterday for talented party members to take part in May's chairmanship election, as well as year-end elections of city mayors and county commissioners.

During the party's Lunar New Year greeting yesterday, Lien, who is currently out of the country, issued a statement to his fellow party members, calling for outstanding party members to come forward and strive for nominations for the two upcoming elections.

He also pledged to continue to safeguard the national interest, serve as a gatekeeper for national wealth and the taxpayers' money and push for party reform.

When asked about Ma's remark, Wang yesterday gave Ma his best wishes and congratulations, but remained evasive on his own intentions.

Wang reiterated that he will fully support Lien if the KMT chairman decides to seek re-election, but refused to say whether he would run if Lien doesn't. He also declined to say whether, if he decides not to run, who he will endorse Ma for the position.

DPP caucus whip Lai Ching-te (賴清德) said that his caucus respected any KMT member's decision because it was, after all, the KMT's own business.

New Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) caucus whip Lo Chih-ming (羅志明) said that he personally thought Wang would make a better KMT chairman than Ma.

"If the competition between Wang and Ma became too fierce, it might lead to Lien's seeking re-election," he said. "But if Lien eventually decides to let go, I think Wang would be a better choice for the party."

He also said that the KMT can only become a genuine localized political party if it lets Wang take the party's helm.

The PFP said that it had no intention of taking sides on the matter, and that it wishes the best of luck to both Wang and Ma. PFP Chairman James Soong's (宋楚瑜) show of neutrality was offset, however, by rumors yesterday that he is slated to meet with Wang tomorrow.

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