Mon, Mar 04, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Apollo Chen eyes Ma's seat as Taipei mayor

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Though Apollo Chen (陳學聖) doesn't want to vie against colleague Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for the job of Taipei mayor, he wouldn't mind running for the post, the KMT legislator said yesterday.

"I'm interested in running for Taipei mayor, though the priority now is on Ma Ying-jeou, whom I also support," Chen told the Taipei Times.

Chen, an advocate of internal reforms within the KMT and one of the party's rising stars, said he would consider making a bid for Taipei mayor once Ma vacates the seat.

Mayor Ma has said he intends to seek a second term in the year-end elections, while feigning disinterest in the 2004 presidential contest.

Still, many KMT members hope Ma will represent the party in the race.

Meanwhile, representatives for the Taipei mayor said that Ma has postponed setting up his campaign office for re-election.

"Due to some factors," the establishment of the office has been postponed until further notice, said Ma spokesman Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇), without elaborating.

The office was originally sch-eduled to open this month. When asked whether the delay indicated Ma was having second thoughts about running for re-election, Wu declined to comment.

Chen said it was very unlikely that Ma will pull out of the race. "I think the reason for the postponement mainly has to do the fact that the Ma camp wants to lay more thorough plans for its campaign operations before they are officially set up," he said.

While Ma currently enjoys high approval ratings and is expected to win re-election easily, Chen cautioned the Ma camp not to be careless.

"The Ma camp needs to keep in mind that people who voted for Ma four years ago might not be there this time around," Chen said.

For example, the mayor's decision to crack down on street venders has irked some constituents.

There are also voters who cast ballots for Ma four years ago because of his endorsement from then president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).

"This time around, those votes will be gone," Chen said, since another endorsement from Lee isn't likely.

In 1998, Lee endorsed Ma as a "new Taiwanese" the night before voters went to the polls.

Analysts say Lee's endorsement helped Ma -- born in Hong Kong -- over the ethnicity hurdle to defeat Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), then the Taipei mayor running for a second term.

Still, while there may be areas of concern for Ma, Chen said the road to electoral victory should be a smooth one, given that the DPP has yet to name a candidate.

"As for the PFP, because of its cooperation with the KMT, the party will not nominate a candidate to run against Ma," Chen said.

But Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀), director of the PFP's Policy Re-search Center, said the party hasn't yet decided whether it will cooperate with the KMT in the year-end elections for Taipei and Kaohsiung mayors.

The two parties have cooperated in the legislature to oppose the DPP, and that has led to speculation that their joint political venture may be extended to the December polls.

"As of now, the PFP has yet to decide whether to throw its support behind Ma's run for Taipei mayor," Chang said.

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