People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) yesterday announced that National Taiwan University (NTU) professor emeritus Lin Ruey-shiung (林瑞雄) would be his running mate in January’s presidential election, while expressing confidence he will be able to collect the 1 million signatures he vowed to collect to join the presidential race.
Amid cheers from supporters, Soong said he selected Lin, a public health expert, in an effort to cure “an epidemic of vicious confrontations between the pan-blue and pan-green camps” and vowed to go beyond party affiliation in his campaign.
“I invite professor Lin to join me in reinstating right and wrong in politics. Taiwan should maintain freedom in politics and openness in economy ... We will go beyond party lines and defend core values in the presidential election,” Soong told a press conference at the National Taiwan University Hospital’s International Conference Center.
Lin, 72, helped found the school’s public health department in 1993, and is a renowned academic whose students included former Department of Health ministers Yang Chih-liang (楊志良) and Yeh Ching-chuan (葉金川).
Describing himself as a “blank page” without any political experience, Lin said he accepted Soong’s invitation because they shared similar ideals about improving the lives of the people in Taiwan.
“I’ve never participated in politics and I am here today because of Chairman Soong ... I was deeply touched by his ideals when I saw his TV interview in April. As a blank page in politics, I welcome all advice and I hope I can offer my experience in public health,” he said.
Soong, accompanied by Lin and PFP Vice Chairman Chang Chao-hsiung (張昭雄), later went to the Central Election Commission (CEC) to register to begin a presidential petition. The commission said the number of signatures required to qualify to register as a presidential candidate is 257,695, but Soong has said he will collect 1 million or not join the race.
Soong said he was confident of reaching that goal. He also said Lin, who holds US citizenship, would give up that citizenship in accordance with the laws.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) said it was not giving up on the possibility of working with the PFP in the January elections.
“We should avoid a split in the pan-blue camp like in the 2000 presidential election. Hopefully, the mistake will not be repeated and Chairman Soong will not let the Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] benefit from a split,” said Chuang Po-chun (莊伯仲), director of the KMT’s Culture and Communications Committee.
Soong’s potential candidacy has raised fears in the KMT that he could split the presidential race, especially since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) appear to be neck-and-neck.
Soong was ousted from the KMT after deciding to run as independent in the 2000 presidential election against the KMT’s nominee, then-vice president Lien Chan (連戰) and the DPP’s Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). Chen won.
Soong brushed aside the KMT’s call for cooperation and said pan-blue unity was not his top priority.
Meanwhile, the DPP said it respected everyone’s decision to participate in politics.
While most people think Soong’s entry into the race would symbolize a split in the pan-blue camp and benefit Tsai, the DPP is determined to win on its own, DPP spokesperson Liang Wen-jie (梁文傑) said.