President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday met Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) amid speculation that Ma intends to take over as party chairman.
Ma said a final decision would not be made until June.
However, he did not deny the possibility that he would run in the election for party chairman, scheduled to be held in July.
“I reached a consensus with Chairman Wu in September last year that we would not discuss the matter until June,” Ma said at KMT headquarters yesterday.
The pair held a private meeting for about 20 minutes.
“Please do not overinterpret the matter and allow us to focus our efforts on improving the economy,” Ma told reporters after the meeting.
Ma’s remarks were his first public comments about speculation that he was considering taking over the party chairmanship to better control party legislators and other party affairs.
The president commended Wu for his work in helping the KMT win the legislative election last year and pushing for cross-strait exchanges as party chairman, while rebutting allegations about tensions between the government and the party.
Wu said the list of candidates for the party chairman election would not be announced until June 15, when contenders are required to collect a registration form.
“If I choose to run in the election in June, it will not be for myself. Supporting Ma has been my goal for the past 10 years and the goal will not change,” Wu said.
Ma held an unscheduled press conference at KMT headquarters last Friday to thank party legislators for their cooperation in approving the government budget at the legislature.
There was speculation that Ma had visited Wu to show his intention of running in the election for party chairman.
Earlier yesterday, Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said it was too early to tell whether Ma was interested in the position because the president’s top priority was to revive the economy.
“The president has not spent much time thinking about it,” Wang said. “He won’t have a clear answer until the middle of June.”
Wu’s term ends in August.
In a recent TV interview, Ma agreed that it would be easier for him to push policies through if he were party chairman. If the president doubles as party chairman, Ma said, the KMT would “of course” remain a democratic party.
Wang said that Ma was merely making an “objective analysis” and that it was not his “personal wish” to become party chairman.
Admitting that it had taken some time before the party and government managed to work well together, Wang said that communication between the Presidential Office, the Executive Yuan and the KMT was good.
Wang said Ma appreciated Wu’s handling of party affairs and that many bills recently cleared by the legislature had required the cooperation of both the party and the KMT caucus.
“The party and the government have worked closely and smoothly together,” Wang said. “There is no problem at all.”
Asked whether Ma would break his promise that he would not double as party chairman, Wang said he had never heard Ma make such a remark.
The Chinese-language China Times has reported that many “Ma troops” in the legislature supported the idea of Ma taking over the party. Wang, however, said there was no such thing as a “Ma troop,” only KMT legislators.
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) confirmed that he had learned of the possibility of the president doubling as party chairman, but did not name his sources.