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Wed, Jan 02, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Newsmakers: Hsieh may have to choose between city and party

DECISION TIME Pressure is mounting on the DPP chairman, who also fills the position of Kaohsiung City mayor, to give up one of the two positions or take the risk of losing both

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh, front, and Deputy Mayor Lin Yong-chien, right, lead city officials in a rope-skipping session after yesterday's New Year's flag-raising ceremony at Kaohsiung City Hall.

PHOTO: CHANG CHUNG-YI, TAIPEI TIMES

Kaohsiung City Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) is in the awkward position of having to choose between the two positions of city mayor and DPP chairman.

It is believed that, if President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) decides to stay out of the matter, the power struggle between DPP factions might be the determining factor in whether Hsieh's re-election bid for the post of the party's chairman will be successful.

Unlike two years ago, his election bid this time around has received little support from DPP factions, despite Hsieh having led the party to victory in the Dec. 1 legislative elections.

While Hsieh has held both positions simultaneously since 2000, different party faction members have called for making the party chairmanship a full-time position.

Among contestants who have announced their intent to run in the chairmanship race are lawmaker Yen Ching-fu (顏錦福) and Senior Advisor to the President Yao Chia-wen (姚嘉文).

Yao harshly criticized Hsieh's cross-strait stance as a deviation from the party's policies.

Hsieh also faces challenges in his re-election bid in the year-end Kaohsiung mayoral election.

Among the potential candidates are DPP lawmaker Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), of the party's Justice Alliance (正義連線), and incumbent Kaohsiung City Council Speaker Huang Chi-chuan (黃啟川) of the KMT.

Hsieh and Chen, as well as former Hsinchu Deputy Mayor Lin Cheng-chieh (林正杰), were collectively dubbed the "three musketeers" of the tangwai (meaning the group of political outsiders who were not part of the KMT in the previous KMT-only one-party-system) when Hsieh served as Taipei City councilor between 1981 and 1989.

The gymnast-turned-lawyer-turned-politician was also one of the founders of the DPP and one of the drafters of the party's platform.

He served as a DPP lawmaker from 1989 to 1996 and helped to form a party faction called the Welfare State Alliance (福利國) in 1992.

Chiang Shan-shui (江善水), a senior journalist, said that he remembers Hsieh as being an eloquent speaker, good at negotiating and full of creative ideas.

"Forming a political party was one of his long-term goals. And to reach that goal, he came up with many brilliant ideas," he said.

Hsieh's position as the city's mayor over the past three years has ensured him a regular place in news headlines, and has given the city a profile it never enjoyed in the past.

The construction of the Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit system (KMRT) has already begun. The project, expected to service 3.5 million people in the city and surrounding areas, is seen as a litmus test for his administration.

In an attempt to improve its international status and image, the city has been hard at work, planning large special events for local and international guests.

However, Hsieh's approval ratings do not look very impressive. Most citizens remain unhappy about problems such as the worsening air and water quality as well as the bad traffic situation.

Hsieh has also come under fire for bringing little to the city financially or economically.

Wang Feng-sheng (王鳳生), professor of business administration at National Sun Yat-sen University, said the mayor's "big ideas" have yet to pan out.

"Few of the main policy planks of his election platform have been realized. He has said a great deal but done little," Wang said.

Yang Ming-lang (楊敏郎), a KMT city councilor, was blunt.

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