Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said yesterday that a united Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) may not necessarily win more support than the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) because KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has pulled the party together and become their brightest star.
"The `Ma Ying-jeou phenomenon' has begun. My fellow DPP members should be aware of this and stand together as a team. But even if we pull together, we still may not be 100 percent sure that we can beat it," Hsieh said.
The premier made his remarks when approached by reporters yesterday morning. He also reiterated that he did not care whether the president relieves him of his position or not, but that he only cared about whether he was doing his job well.
"At the moment, I really do not care about the speculation regarding who will replace me and take over the premier's seat because if I worry about that all the time, I will not be able to focus on my job," Hsieh said.
The premier said that Ma has united the KMT since he became party chairman in August. In addition to victory in last Saturday's local elections, Hsieh said that Ma is currently at the high point of his political career.
"I think everyone of my fellow DPP members should be aware of this," Hsieh said.
The premier urged his fellow DPP members to stop arguing with each other over various issues and sit down and come up with strategies with which to fight the KMT.
"The 2008 presidential election should not be the only thing that we are thinking about or focusing on because if we do nothing now, it will be impossible for us to win the 2008 election at all," the premier said.
Regarding the poor showing of the DPP in last Saturday's elections, Hsieh said that just because he did not make any comment on the issue in public did not mean he did not have anything to say.
"I was simply afraid that the press would twist my words again," he said.
In response to Hsieh's words, Ma said he didn't deserve such compliments.
"I've said this before. The KMT did not beat the DPP in the elections. The DPP defeated itself," he said yesterday after presiding over a meeting at the city government.
"I don't believe that we are great. I still think the KMT needs to reform to become a great party," he said.
Meanwhile, in response to media reports that called Ma the "great blue hope" for the pan-blue camp in its bid to grab the presidency in 2008, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) said such observations are only "superficial," as Ma still hasn't made clear his stance on issues such as cross-strait policy and the arms procurement.
"I haven't heard of Ma showing support for the arms procurement budget so far. We need to see how things will unfold in the future," Chen said.
Additional reporting by Mo Yan-chih and Chang Yun-ping