In a move to curb growing tension over the election for his party's next chairman, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) yesterday asked Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and rival candidate Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to file a report on negative advertising and accusations being leveled between the two.
Responding to reports yesterday that the Wang camp was unhappy about Ma's most recent campaign ads, Lien said it was important that the July 16 election remain a "gentlemanly competition."
"In regard to the criticism that there are negative campaign ads and false accusations, both candidates should explain and clarify the situation to the Central Standing Committee and the KMT. Since both candidates have promised to have a `gentlemanly competition,' they should provide explanations to the Central Standing Committee," Lien said during the committee's weekly meeting.
The reports said that the Wang camp claims Ma's recent campaign ads amounted to an attack on Wang.
Wang's supporters said on Tuesday that the television and print commercials, which urge party members to "draw a clear line on black gold [corruption]," were attempts to discredit Wang by associating him with corruption within the party.
In response, Ma yesterday said that the KMT had long been against corruption, and that Lien himself had said that no chairmanship candidate could have a history of corruption.
He said that if his ads could be considered negative campaigning, then all campaign advertising should be considered this way.
Meanwhile, Wang raised the temperature of the contest yesterday by indirectly confirming media reports that he will resign as KMT vice chairman if Ma wins the election.
It would be logical to conclude that he would step down as vice chairman if he were to lose the election next month, Wang said at KMT headquarters when asked about the reports.
It was also reported yesterday that a Wang aide said on Tuesday that if Wang were not elected chairman, the KMT would be "plunged into crisis."
The KMT would become divided, the aide said, because Wang would no longer be a vice chairman and prevent issues such as pan-blue alliance unity, KMT assets and staff salaries from becoming serious problems.
Wang said that he had not thought about quitting as vice chairman and still had to assess the matter, but he stressed that the "speculation is reasonable."
Wang noted that Ma had spoken about a generational transfer of power in the party leadership. Wang said that a man of his age should leave the party leadership if he lost the election. Wang is 64 years old, and Ma is 55.
Wang's campaign headquarters, however, said that Wang has an open mind and that he would work with Ma whatever post he holds.
In response, Ma said he was sure that Wang loved the party and that he himself would not quit as vice chairman even if he lost the election.
Ma said that if Wang wins the chairmanship, "I will support him in the interests of the party," that "this is a gentlemen's battle" and that both were comrades before the election and should be after the election.
Ma added that both he and Wang were in agreement that the party could not afford to split apart.