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Sat, Mar 24, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Lien gears up for polls

ELECTION DAY KMT Chairman Lien Chan is the only person contesting the chairmanship election today, leading some to question how sincere the party is about reform

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The KMT will hold the first direct election for party chairman in its history today. The current chairman and sole candidate, Lien Chan (連戰), yesterday pledged to offer new hope for everyone in Taiwan and lead the party back to power to reverse what he called the "nation's decline," which he blamed on the DPP government.

To mobilize party members to vote, Lien sent every member a letter pledging to carry out party reform.

"The failure in the presidential election was the biggest frustration of both my career and the KMT's history," Lien said during a televised interview yesterday. "It also brought about a failure for the country [after the DPP government's first 10 months in office]."

Lien said that the nation was greatly disappointed in the DPP government, and that the DPP was governing "dogmatically" and risked "sinking all the passengers on the good ship `Taiwan.'"

"We cannot allow the DPP government, which has lost its direction, to `sink' in such a way that all the people perish together," Lien said.

He said that the KMT should reform itself as soon as possible in order to take on the responsibility of reversing Taiwan's decline.

"Now I will serve as a coordinator to unite the party which split during the presidential campaign, which was the key reason for the KMT's failure," Lien said. "I therefore appeal to all party members to take part in the party's democratic reform by voting in the election for chairman."

Lien pledged to lead the party in retaining its majority in the legislature after the year-end legislative election and to regain power by offering a new hope and vision to the nation.

He also refused to rule out the possibility of visiting China, noting that cross-strait relations had stalled and that dialogue between the two sides had been suspended for a year.

He said that he would like to visit China as long as the trip "lives up to the expectations and interests of the people of Taiwan."

Today's election for the party chairman is regarded as the first step in the KMT's reform process. But the new system has still been questioned as being democratic in name only.

"KMT headquarters' leaders designed the rules so that Lien would become the sole qualified candidate," said Tuan Hung-chun (段宏俊), who registered to run for the chairmanship but failed to meet the criteria for eligibility.

The rules stipulate that anyone who wants to run for the chairmanship must obtain the signatures of more than 3 percent of all party members in support of his or her bid. The party has about 950,000 members.

Lien succeeded former chairman Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) last June and pledged to implement party reform under three principles -- downsizing the party bureaucracy, and making the party both democratic and transparent.

The KMT, which once boasted 2 million members, launched a membership re-registration drive last September in preparation for the direct election of the chairman, but less than 1 million people re-registered.

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