Thu, May 01, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Newsmaker: KMT vice chairman keeps attracting attention

PUBLICITY Despite the fact that he is a party stalwart, Vincent Siew has often found his name linked with the DPP -- underscoring his discomfort with his own party

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Vincent Siew's mild-mannered disposition has earned him the nickname ``Smiling Siew.''

PHOTO:TAIPEI TIMES

Although he was away in Okinawa, Japan on vacation last week, KMT Vice Chairman Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) nonetheless caused a stir in Taiwan's political arena last Thursday when a local Chinese-language magazine named him as a possible running mate for President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in next March's presidential election.

In the latest edition of the Business Weekly (商業週刊), the magazine said that high-ranking DPP officials were working on inviting Siew to be Chen's partner after realizing that Siew had twice in March tried to resign his position as vice chairman of the KMT. Siew's resignation was turned down by KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰).

Siew, upon arriving home from Japan this past Sunday, sternly rebutted the story, saying that it would be impossible for him to pair up with Chen.

Nevertheless, the incident again highlighted the awkward position that Siew often seems to find himself in, with outsiders repeatedly speculating an ambiguous and ambivalent relationship between Siew and the KMT

"Siew's gestures on various occasions have prompted outsiders to repeatedly speculate about Siew's relationship with the KMT," said Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒), a political observer and editor in chief of Contemporary Monthly magazine.

Citing an example, Chin noted that Siew was the only one among the KMT's six vice chairpersons whose name was not found on the list of heads of eight committees announced earlier this month.

The eight committees are to be in charge of coordinating the KMT-PFP alliance's bid in the presidential election next March, featuring Lien as the presidential candidate with PFP counterpart James Soong (宋楚瑜) as his running mate.

Stating the reason for his refusal to take a post in the alliance's campaign, as well as the reason for wanting to give up his position as vice chairman, Siew said that he "simply wanted to give room and opportunity for the party's younger blood."

"Siew's statement was offensive to both Lien and Soong, an insinuation about the age of the two," said Chin, alluding to the DPP's criticism that the pairing of 67-year-old Lien and 61-year-old Soong had created a team of old men.

Speculation about Siew's relationship with the KMT continues to dog Siew, despite his constantly emphasizing that he aligns himself with the interests of the KMT and finds all the rumors and speculation confounding.

The relationship between the DPP administration and Siew -- who is a member of the KMT's localization faction and had a good rapport with former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) -- has likewise been quite ambiguous and a constant topic of popular curiosity.

For instance, Siew drew special attention when he made an appearance at the inaugural ceremonies for the Taiwan Advocates (群策會) and Taiwan Think Tank (台灣智庫) because both are regarded as important brain trusts of the DPP administration.

Siew, known as a modest and mild-mannered politician whose constant smile has earned him the nickname "Smiling Siew," said that he accepted invitations to these events purely out of courtesy. But such gestures seem to mean something more in the eyes of political observers.

"Gathering from these gestures of Siew's they clearly suggest that Siew is not satisfied with Lien and is not walking in the same political direction as Lien," said Chin.

Siew was premier from 1997 to 2000 and a legislator from 1995 to 1997. In the 2000 presidential election, Siew ran a as Lien' running mate in an unsuccessful bid.

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