Wed, Oct 18, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Soong declares candidacy for mayor

DIVISIVE?The PFP chairman said he would run as an independent candidate to avoid a pan-blue split, but Ma Ying-jeou expressed concern about having three candidates

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

After months of speculation and innuendo, People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) yesterday announced his candidacy in the Taipei mayoral election, sparking concern in the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) of a pan-blue split.

The KMT, which nominated its own Taipei mayoral candidate Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) in May, has been negotiating with the PFP in an effort to dissuade Soong from joining the race.

Pledging to run as a candidate "transcending party affiliations," Soong shrugged off the KMT's concerns by declaring that he would temporarily leave his position as PFP chairman to run as an independent candidate, while urging Taipei residents to choose their future mayor according to the candidates' abilities.

"We should not depend on `faction politics' in Taiwan ... In choosing the future Taipei mayor, residents should consider candidates' abilities, instead of asking what a candidate's father or his party chairman can do," Soong said while releasing his new book at the Mayor's Arts Residence Salon.

To chants of "Go, go Chairman Soong," the PFP chairman promised that if elected mayor he would visit the city's districts on a regular basis to better understand residents' concerns.

Soong dismissed claims that he was running for mayor to retain his visibility prior to the 2008 presidential election, saying he would be satisfied with a four-year term as mayor and would not seek re-election thereafter.

"Taipei City Hall is not a springboard to the Presidential Office ... [Serving as mayor] would represent the conclusion of my political career," he said.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), KMT Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅), talk-show host Sisy Chen (陳文茜) and several PFP city councilors attended the event to lend their support.

"Chairman Soong has put all his effort into understanding Taipei City's issues ... Given an opportunity, I believe that he will transform Taipei into a brand new city," Wang said.

Soong promised that if elected he would focus his efforts on issues such as urban regeneration and water resource projects.

Incumbent Taipei Mayor and KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), however, expressed deep concern that the emergence of three pan-blue candidates could split the alliance's support base.

"We will continue to try every possible means to ensure that there is only one candidate representing the pan-blue alliance," Ma said at Taipei City Hall.

In addition to Hau and Soong, independent Legislator Lee Ao (李敖) on Sunday announced that he would run in the election.

Ma said the pan-blue camp could not afford another split such as it suffered in the March 2000 presidential election and the 1994 Taipei mayoral race. He added that he would do whatever he could to avoid such a scenario, including meeting with Lee or Soong.

Hau said he respected Soong's decision to run and vowed to compete in a gentlemanly manner.

"Pan-blue voters should join forces and not be split. As the KMT candidate, the most important thing for me is to spare no effort to earn voters' support," Hau said while registering his candidacy for the election with the Taipei Municipal Election Commission.

Hau promised that if elected mayor he would work to develop Taipei as a friendly, safe and truly international city.

Meanwhile, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei mayoral candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), who brought cheerleaders and baseball players with him to the Central Election Commission, told the press that hosting the Olympic Games in Taipei in 2020 was a possibility.

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