Concerns mounted yesterday about an emerging rift in the pan-blue camp amid speculation that People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) could run for election in January.
Facing a tough battle next year, some members of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) fear Soong’s entry on a separate ballot would take votes away from the party’s legislative candidates.
Soong, who came within 320,000 votes of winning the presidency in 2000, has refused to say whether he would run next year as a district or at-large legislator, but PFP officials have confirmed that the idea is being considered.
“Soong has yet to make a decision,” a senior PFP official told the Central News Agency yesterday. “We are still making assessments. Soong will tackle the nominations for other candidates first and will handle his own part later.”
The PFP and the KMT’s support base overlap, with the two parties forming an alliance in 2007 under the KMT banner.
However, relations have deteriorated, mostly over local and -legislative nomination disputes.
Soong said last week there was “no more need” for discussions on the issue of joint legislative nominations, adding that his party had been ignored in KMT decisionmaking.
Despite putting forward just three legislative candidates in 2008, the PFP is considering 20 this year, party officials said, with many in heavily pan-blue districts, which could have an impact on KMT candidates’ chances.
A ballot that includes Soong on the party’s at-large roster could hurt the KMT.
While poll numbers have not included Soong as a factor for next year, the PFP chairman only received 4 percent of the vote when he ran for Taipei mayor in 2006.
The PFP’s at-large list could also be bolstered by the ranks of writer-turned-politician Li Ao (李敖), a former independent who retains close ties with the KMT, but has confirmed that the PFP has approached him about running next year.
KMT Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) said the developments could undermine the KMT’s chances in the legislative elections by leading many borderline KMT supporters to cast their votes for Soong and the PFP in a three-way race.
Asking the PFP chairman to run would “harm Soong, harm the -Republic of China, create a split in the pan-blue alliance and pull down Ma,” he said.
Adding that a major backer behind Soong’s inclusion on his party’s at-large list was former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), Chiu said that: “Lee was once again showing his [devil’s horns].”
“Soong shouldn’t forget that ... it was Lee who prevented him from being president in 2000,” Chiu said.
Lee, as president and KMT chairman, had been key in choosing then-vice president Lien Chan (連戰) to be the KMT presidential candidate over Soong for the 2000 election, leading Soong to launch an independent bid for the presidency.
Lee, a supporter of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who also maintains friendly relations with Soong, said on Sunday that Soong should aim higher than Hualien County, where he is speculated to be considering a run.
Hualien County Commissioner Fu Kun-chi (傅崑萁) offered to back the PFP chairman to run there, where he said Soong would have a high chance of winning.
Fu, an independent, said the move would also strengthen cross-party cooperation with the KMT and should be backed by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) — an apparent reference to taking Soong out of the at-large race.
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