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Lien's success hinges on self-reform

ADJUSTMENT While the Central Committee is clearly solidly behind him, Lien faces challenges concerning both the party's reform and public perception of him

By Hung Chen-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lien Chan listens to debate at the KMT's extraordinary party congress yesterday. Lien was elected KMT chairman with 95 percent of the votes cast. He now faces two urgent tasks: to press forward with party reform and to solicit public support.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

With the support of 94.83 percent of the Central Committee, Lien Chan (連戰) was elected the KMT's chairman yesterday. Lien will be responsible for leading the party as it makes major reforms, but before he does this, critics say Lien will have to undertake a personal reform first.

Lien, 64-years old, has long been seen as having lived an easy life. He was born into a wealthy family, was educated at distinguished universities and married a famous beauty, before switching for a political life, going from the post of ambassador to become premier and then vice president.

However, Lien's luck now seems exhausted and he has had a rough ride since losing the March 18 election.

"Lien faced the biggest frustration of his life during the recent election," said Alex Tsai (蔡正元), the party's deputy chief of the Department of Cultural Affairs. And Tsai anticipated that Lien's future as head of the party would not be an easy one.

The upcoming challenges to Lien come from both within the KMT itself and the changed political situation outside the party.

First of all, the party's reform proposals, that are to be passed today, concern the party's re-organization and the updating of its image. A timely reform is necessary if the party is to live up to the public's hopes.

The KMT established a reform committee in the wake of the presidential election and drew up reform proposals -- which included placing the party's controversial assets in a trust -- after two months of discussion. However, from the view of the party's members, this is just the beginning.

"Reform is not only paperwork, it needs more action," said lawmaker Chen Horng-chi (陳鴻基), adding that Lien must do his best to remove resistance from within the party if he wants to bring about reform.

In addition, Lien will have to clarify the party's position now that it has transformed into an opposition party. And the relationship between the KMT and the DPP and the PFP will have to be re-thought.

On the one hand, the question is "how to interact with Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) government concerning the KMT's ability as a qualified opposition," said Tsai, adding that the party should respect its lawmakers' opinions because they are the ones with the power to supervise Chen's administration.

On the other hand, "the party should maintain cooperative and competitive relations with the PFP, whose party chairman, James Soong (宋楚瑜), separated from the KMT to run for the presidential election," said lawmaker Chen Shei-saint (陳學聖).

Chen indicated that the KMT and the PFP shared support from people with similar ideologies, therefore, while the party will probably have to coordinate with the PFP when rivaling the DPP, it will also have to prevent the PFP from growing in strength.

However, Lien still has to lead the party to victory in next year's legislative and county commissioner's elections before the party can hope for success in the next presidential election in four years time.

He faces a difficult task but he hasn't got much time. Critics wonder if Lien's personality has the daring and resolution required to complete the task.

As Lien is described at his personal Web site, he is "Lien -- calm, sincere, modest and pragmatic." This is a major reason why he wins acceptance from party members with differing opinions. He is depicted as the only one who can cross these dividing lines of opinion as the party descends into disorder.

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