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
With less than 14 days to go before the presidential election, the contest is shaping up to be a close race.
\nWhile 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.
\nTake the pan-blue camp as an example.
\nMuch 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).
\nChen 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.
\nTo 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.
\nNoting 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.
\n"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.
\n"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.
\nAcknowledging 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.
\nSaying 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.
\nAs for Soong, Sheng said that "the possibility of Soong returning to the KMT is very unlikely" if the Lien-Soong ticket fails.
\n"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.
\nChin, however, pointed to another conundrum: could the PFP survive without Soong?
\nSome 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.
\nThe 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.
\nJust 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.
\n"If the KMT-PFP alliance loses the election, it may lead to another split in the party," Chin said.
\nStating that another immediate issue facing the KMT should the pan-blues lose the presidential election is the need for the party to re-examine its platform and political line in order to get closer to the Taiwanese voters, Chin said that, "there is the likelihood that some members of the KMT's pro-localization faction might abandon the party should the KMT-PFP alliance lose the election and form a Taiwan Nationalist Party as [former KMT legislator] Hung Yu-chin (洪玉欽) has once suggested."
\nHung, elected to the KMT's Central Standing Committee last August with the most votes of any members, suggested last November during the committee's weekly meeting that the KMT should change its name to the "Taiwan Nationalist Party" in order to strengthen its pro-Taiwan, pro-localization image.
\nHung's suggestion received no further discussion in the meeting as Lien, given the sensitivity of such a suggestion, turned it over to the party's policy-making department for review.
\n"Split and unity are common occurrences in the political arena," Chin said. "It is therefore a large possibility that some members of the KMT might choose to seek a future outside the party should the KMT-PFP alliance lose the election."
\nSheng, however, offered a different perspective, saying that another split within the KMT was unlikely.
\n"I hardly doubt that the KMT would have another split if it loses the election," Sheng said.
\n"Where would these wayward members go? The DPP does not necessarily have room for them and even if it does, these breakaway KMT members might not want to lose the status and influence they would otherwise have in the KMT," said Sheng, adding that "as the nation's political dynamic gradually evolves to be a two-party system, the possibility of survival of small political parties is unlikely."
\nThe analyst added that the PFP might face political destruction if the KMT-PFP alliance loses its presidential bid.
\n"The PFP could quickly lose its momentum due to the dimming of Soong's halo around it," Chin said.
\nGiven that the PFP lacks a second leadership figure who enjoys nationwide appeal and heavyweight status in the political arena, Chin said that the PFP would risk either being vaporized or merged with the KMT.
\nIf the alliance fails in the election bid, political watchers noted that it was likely that, due to a crisis of conscience, pan-blue supporters would demand that the KMT and the PFP hasten a merge between the two to avoid of having their political might further diminished by the pan-green camp.
\nAn electoral victory for the Lien-Soong ticket on March 20 would not mean the pan-blue camp would be free from the thorny issue of merging as well.
\nDuring a TV interview last month, Lien expressed his hope for a merger between the KMT and the PFP. Lien then said the merging between the two parties would be good for the pan-blue camp's overall development.
\nWhen asked to comment then on Lien's remarks, Soong stated that while he would not rule out any possibility in the future, "in the present time, it is in appropriate to talk about merger because it would ignite unnecessary human-resource problems."
\nAnother issue, if Lien should win the presidency, would be the concern that whether the two parties would be able to act in unison and make policy decisions in view of two party headquarters, two sets of politicians and policy agendas.
\nSaying that challenges and discrepancies are bound to show up in their cooperation in governing the nation should the KMT-PFP alliance wins the presidential election, Sheng noted that "the cooperation between the KMT and the PFP would definitely be under strict public scrutiny."
\n"I think in the long-term, the KMT and the PFP will go down the path toward a merger," he added.
\nStruggles and frustration would emerge if the pan-blue camp wins the presidential election.
\nIf the Lien-Soong ticket wins the March election, both Lien and Soong would immediately face a decision on allocating political resources between the KMT and the PFP, said Chiu Hei-yuan (瞿海源), political observer and sociology professor at National Taiwan University.
\n"Competition for resources and positions is foreseeable if the blue camp wins the election," Chiu said.
\nThe year-end legislative election would complicate the issue further and stir debate as conflicts of interest are bound to surface.
\nWhatever the outcome is on March 20, Chin said that post-election power struggles and competition was guaranteed within the pan-blue camp.
\n"Complicated issues would surface," he said, citing examples such as controversy on whether the vice president should couple as premier and distribution of power, resources and positions.
\nDuring a TV interview, Lien said that when and if he is elected president, he would resign from his position as the KMT chairman.
\nLien's statement set off another round of speculation on whether Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) or Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) would succeed as the new party chairman.
\nYunlin County Commissioner Chang Jung-wei (張榮味) suggested last November that Wang should take over the party chairmanship temporarily while Lien was campaigning for the presidency.
\nWhile Chang Jung-wei proposed that Wang should fill in for Lien during the 40 days before the March 20 poll in order to highlight the KMT's pro-localization image as well as to allow Lien to focus on his campaign, KMT legislators suggested that Ma should fill the chairmanship.
\nIt is apparent that Wang and Ma represent two different philosophies within the KMT.
\nWang, a seasoned politician from Kaohsiung County, is regarded by many pan-blue supporters as the key representative of the pro-localization faction. Fifty-four year old Ma, a mainlander, is seen as the rising star in the party representing the party's middle generation.
\nWhile 63-year-old Wang enjoys a prominent status in the party given his pro-localization image and influential authority in the Legislature Yuan, Ma has asserted his star status in the party after he scored a landslide victory in his re-election mayoral bid in 2002.
\nThe interaction between Soong and Wang will be worth watching because there has been much discussion of how Wang and his pro-localization followers found Soong overly dominant and manipulative.
\nPolitical watchers said that this uneasy alliance was demonstrated when Wang, prior to accepting his role in the national campaign headquarters last September, said that the two candidates would first have to show they were sincere about putting the interests of the people first before he would accept the campaign post.
\nIn addition, earlier in the formation of the KMT-PFP alliance, there were also dissenting voices from within the KMT, notablely from members of the pro-localization faction, that Soong was playing a dominant role over Lien.
\nFor example, last June when Soong was accused of mobilizing the pan-blue camp's legislative majority to prevent the legislature from confirming the appointment of Chen Shui-bian's Grand-Justice nominees, it was reported that Wang and some KMT legislators had expressed reservations over Soong's attempt to control the pan-blue camp.
\n"Power struggles among different factions within the parties is inevitable," Chin said.
\nDPP Legislator Chang Hsueh-shun (張學舜) on Wednesday predicted that chaotic power struggles and competition would take place among five factions within the pan-blue camp should it win the election.
\nThe five competing factions outlined by Chang included the KMT's pro-localization faction led by Wang, another faction under the leadership of Ma, the New Party, the PFP and a group made up of high-profile individuals such as independent legislator Sisy Chen (陳文茜), former New Party legislator and TV host Jaw Shaw-kong (趙少康) and former DPP chairman Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良), who have allied themselves with the pan-blue camp.
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
Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.