Tue, Apr 13, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Forget Lien Chan: the KMT's future is Ma Ying-jeou versus Wang Jin-pyng

NEW GENERATION Analysts say that it's time for KMT Chairman Lien Chan to resign, but his would-be successors both have their own political baggage to worry about

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou raises the torch to pose for cameras as he receives it from a sportsman. The torch passed from Taipei County to Taipei City is to promote the upcoming nationwide Junior High School Sport Contest held in Hualien.

PHOTO: CNA

With another pan-blue rally degenerating into violent clashes, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), seemingly confused about its future direction, can no longer put off the thorny question from which it has tried to hide: Who can be a leader capable of opening the KMT up to become a democratic party and facilitating a comeback in 2008?

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) are KMT vice chairmen and are the two most promising candidates to take up positions of leadership and vie for the party's nomination for president in the 2008 election.

Although KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) has refused to concede defeat to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in the bitterly contested March 20 poll, and has used delaying tactics such as calling mass protests to shirk responsibility for the KMT's defeat, it is time -- pending the result of the recount -- for Lien to step down as party chairman and hand power to the next generation.

That step is based on the assumption that Lien can practice what he preached to former president and KMT chairman Lee Teng-hui (李登輝): Take responsibility as party chairman for Lien's defeat in the 2000 election.

Lien's resignation as chairman is an important step in the KMT's reform and revival, said Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒), a political commentator and editor-in-chief of Contemporary Monthly magazine.

"Lien understands that he can't get around the inevitable and that he has to hand power to Ma or Wang -- even though he is reluctant to do so," Chin said.

Although Ma was the first to say the party should "consolidate the leadership of the KMT" at its first Central Standing Committee after the election, Lien seemed dissatisfied with Ma -- as reflected in the trouble the mayor is having dealing with the pan-blue camp's protests, Chin said.

"Lien did not even glance at Ma during the [meeting] when he made the suggestion," Chin said.

Meanwhile, Ma's conflict of interest in dealing with the protests in Taipei City also exposed the problems of his political philosophy: He tries to please everyone and not to offend anyone.

"Ma, who served as the pan-blue camp's national campaign manager and Taipei City Mayor, pleased nobody this time," Chin said. "His indecisive attitude and buck-passing in dealing with the rallies has vexed many middle-class people."

Although Ma, who at 54 is considered the leader of the middle generation of the KMT, has huge media charisma and is praised for his image of integrity, criticism of how he handled the pan-blue protests would be crucial in determining whether he could become party chairman, said Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明), an assistant research fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences of the Academia Sinica.

"Ma needs to understand that he can't just take care of his supporters who gathered on the square in front of the presidential office, while neglecting the TV audience who have been judging his handling of the pan-blue rallies," Hsu said.

"Ma has been distant from the KMT's policymaking core because his advice was never adopted by Lien and Soong," Hsu said.

People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) has also caused Ma considerable trouble, allowing a PFP lawmaker to blast Ma for ordering police to disperse the protesters on Sunday morning, an act that reveals Soong's enmity toward Ma, Chin said.

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