Sun, Mar 07, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Big changes ahead for pan-blue - win or lose

Political experts are not sure the pan-blues could suffer another election defeat unscathed, but even if they win the presidential election something has to give

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

KMT Chairman Lien Chan, center, and PFP Chairman James Soong, left -- along with KMT Vice Chairman Vincent Siew -- yesterday attend a campaign rally at their national campaign headquarters.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

With less than 14 days to go before the presidential election, the contest is shaping up to be a close race.

While the public's attention is drawn to the everyday war of words between the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the opposition Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-People First Party (PFP) alliance, politicians and political observers are already thinking ahead to beyond election day, speculating possible post-election political realignment and leadership after the ballots are counted on March 20.

Take the pan-blue camp as an example.

Much is at stake for both KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and his PFP running mate James Soong (宋楚瑜) as well as for their respective parties in the upcoming presidential election against President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮).

Chen won the 2000 presidential election with 39 percent of the vote nationwide. Soong, a breakaway KMT heavyweight, who then ran as an independent, obtained 36 percent while Lien, the KMT's candidate, was a distant third with 23 percent.

To avoid a repeat of their defeat in the 2000 presidential election which put an end to nearly 55 years of KMT rule, Lien is joining forces with his former foe, Soong, on a single ticket in an attempt to unseat Chen in the upcoming election.

Noting Lien's age -- 68 -- and Soong's -- 62 -- political observers said that the two could bow out of politics altogether if they again fail to unseat Chen.

"Should the voters deal a second blow to Lien in this election, it will symbolize the end of his political life," said Emile Sheng (盛治仁), a professor of political science at Soochow University.

"More so than his age, the point will be that, for someone who runs twice for the presidency and fails twice, it would be hard for [Lien] to gather popular support to continue in politics," Sheng added.

Acknowledging the KMT's defeat in the legislative election in 2001 under Lien's chairmanship, Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒), a political commentator and editor-in-chief of Contemporary Monthly magazine, said that Lien's political life would be over if he loses the presidential election.

Saying that the pan-blue camp would be forced to reshuffle its leadership in the post-election period, Chin added that the KMT would also be immediately racked with internal disputes on issues such as colliding generations within its ranks and who would take over the leadership of the party.

As for Soong, Sheng said that "the possibility of Soong returning to the KMT is very unlikely" if the Lien-Soong ticket fails.

"While it is without doubt that Soong's political influence would be somewhat diminished should he lose the election, it is still hard to tell what would become of him in his political career," Sheng said.

New conundrum

Chin, however, pointed to another conundrum: could the PFP survive without Soong?

Some political pundits suspect that the 109-year-old KMT might face another split arising from within if the party fails to regain the Presidential Office.

The KMT's first major split was in 1993 when members of the party opposed to then KMT chairman Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) left and founded the New Party.

Just before the 2000 presidential election, the maverick campaign of Soong caused another group of KMT members to leave the party. Soong formed the PFP after his campaign failed during the three-way presidential race in 2000.

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