Sat, Dec 07, 2002 - Page 3 News List

James Soong's begging stunt rattles blue camp

POLITICAL POSTURING The PFP leader got down on his knees Thursday night to beg supporters to vote for Ma Ying-jeou, but some KMT supporters are less than grateful

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

KMT Chairman Lien Chan, left, holds up Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's hand at a campaign rally in Taipei last night.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

PFP Chairman James Soong's (宋楚瑜) unexpected act Thursday in which he went down on his knees to beg supporters to vote for Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has generated a political shockwave.

Most analysts believe Soong is the sole winner in this maneuver, as this will boost the PFP's campaign for Taipei City Council deputies while creating an impression that the KMT and Ma owe Soong credit -- a bargaining chip for Soong's 2004 presidential bid.

Trying to play down the political impact of the gesture, Soong yesterday said the purpose of the stunt was to block the DPP's attempts to divide blue-camp supporters.

"Don't presume his [Ma's] victory is secure. If we are careless and cause Ma to lose the election or win with a low share of the vote, Taiwanese people will suffer severe consequences," Soong said.

Soong said he is throwing his full support behind Ma because he has a consensus at KMT Lien Chan (連戰) and urged the public not to complicate the matter.

"As to how Ma will plan his career, I respect Ma's and the people's choices. This isn't something that can be influenced by a single individual," Soong said.

According to Soong, he will meet with Lien after the Taipei and Kaohsiung mayoral elections are over to discuss the two parties' plans for cooperating in the 2004 presidential election.

Soong surprised everyone when he knelt down to beg the audience to "support Ma Ying-jeou to win with a high number of votes" during a campaign rally Thursday night in Taipei for the PFP's candidates for city county deputies.

The move came just hours after PFP Legislator Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄) openly expressed his anger with Ma for rejecting the PFP's invitation to stump for the party's candidates, criticizing Ma for behaving "too arrogantly" and urging the people not to let Ma win too many votes.

Liu's remarks, however, failed to win approval from pan-blue supporters, with many PFP candidates receiving angry phone calls Thursday afternoon.

Both Lien and Ma expressed their appreciation for Soong's support yesterday.

Lien predicted that people will see the solidarity of the opposition forces in today's polls.

"The people will display that force tomorrow and the outcome of the polls will be where our new hope lies," Lien said.

Ma explained that he could not accept the PFP's invitation because there has been strong opposition among KMT candidates running for the hotly contested seats on the Taipei City Council.

"We will cooperate with PFP city council members in the future," Ma said.

Despite the courteous speech, some KMT officials could hardly conceal their anger with Soong in private.

A high-ranking KMT official who spoke on condition of anonymity said there was "absolutely no grounds" for Soong to go down on his knees when Ma enjoys a comfortable lead over his DPP challenger, Lee Ying-yuan (李應元).

The KMT official said Soong's act could make the campaign a showdown between the pan-green and pan-blue camps and cause Ma to lose the support of most moderate and green-leaning voters -- a development Ma has been trying to avoid.

But Soong has nothing to lose from the move, as he can pacify the backlash against the PFP in the aftermath of Liu's remarks, boost the PFP's campaign and put Ma in a position where he owes him credit, the official said.

Lee, meanwhile, agreed that Soong's move will arouse the passions of voters and raise their sense of crisis, which he said will be advantageous to his campaign.

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