The highest decision-making body of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday approved Chairman Lien Chan's (連戰) proposal to push for a merger with the People First Party (PFP).
"After an enthusiastic meeting discussion, the proposal was unanimously approved by all members of the Central Standing Commit-tee," Lien said at a news conference held following a three-hour closed-door committee meeting.
The KMT's vice chairmen and a number of committee members attended the press conference.
Without elaborating on details of the merger plan, such as whether he or PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) would lead the merged party, Lien said that he and Soong would assemble a task force to facilitate the merger.
Soong, a former KMT member, created the PFP after he lost the 2000 presidential election, in which had run as an independent candidate after failing to win the KMT's nomination. Most of the PFP's founding members were KMT defectors.
Lien said the KMT's organization department will hold seminars for grassroots party members to exchange views concerning this matter.
"Once consensus is established, the merger plan will be forwarded to the upcoming national party congress for approval and confirmation," Lien said.
The party congress is scheduled for July.
Stressing that "Taiwan must continue to strengthen and consolidate an all-people politics that is centrist, rational, tolerant and diverse," Lien said that it was according to such ideals that "the KMT and the PFP, on the existing base of cooperation, are working toward a merger, which is the expectation and will of the majority of the public."
Lien's announcement was greeted with cheers and applause from a crowd of pan-blue supporters who had gathered in lobby of the KMT's national headquarters. Some of the supporters waved national flags or held up homemade posters that read "Go, go! Lien Chan."
When asked by reporters about a timetable for the merger, Lien said "the sooner the better."
KMT Secretary-General Lin Fong-cheng (林豐正) had on Tuesday said that the merger would be more meaningful if the deal could be finalized ahead of the year-end legislative elections.
Emphasizing that he is not opposed to the merger plan, KMT Legislator Hsu Chong-hsiung (徐中雄), a member of the Central Standing Committee, said "proper logistics" must be upheld in working on the merger.
Hsu said that several other committee members shared his view that the party ought to allow open debate on the issue and leave it to a vote among party members.
Meanwhile, Soong told reporters yesterday said that the merger would provide the people of Taiwan with another option.
Soong, however, also said that the KMT needs to tackle many issues, including "localization," party assets, "black gold" politics and internal power struggles.
Soong's remarks were echoed by PFP legislators.
"There are some KMT legislators who went missing during the presidential election campaign, but came back to criticize their party afterwards. We also have to watch [former president] Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) past connections in the KMT. It's those [people] from the localization faction who are damaging the party's image," said PFP caucus whip Hsieh Chang-chieh (謝章捷).
"The merger is not just about the two parties or a few individuals but rather the whole opposition. Chairman Lien has to act tough and clear out those who are trying to split the party. Those who wish to go should be allowed to go. If that doesn't happen, the merger would be a marriage between a disciplined and well-respected PFP and a corrupted KMT," Hsieh said.