Wed, Jan 11, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Soong likely to run for Taipei mayor

BLUE SPLIT?The odds of PFP Chairman James Soong running for Taipei mayor are 'pretty high,' but the decision looks likely to cause division within the pan-blue camp

By Mo Yan-chih and Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS

People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong, left, and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou shake hands on Monday at Taipei's Dadaocheng pier as Soong boarded a ferry to Tamsui to attend a party held by PFP Taipei City councilors to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

PHOTO: LO PEI-DER, TAIPEI TIMES

People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) will likely run in the Taipei mayoral elections, party leaders said yesterday, exposing divisions within the pan-blue alliance.

"The odds of seeing [Soong] enter the race are pretty high," said PFP Legislator Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀), who also serves as the party's director of policy research.

Soong has consulted party heavyweights and officials on the matter and plans to discuss the issue with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), Chang said.

"KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) stance and opinion on the issue is very important," Chang said.

"The two touched on the issue when they first met and the two parties' secretary-generals are now working out the details," he added.

Ma, however, declared that his party will not make way for the PFP.

"We will have our own candidates in the Taipei and Kaohsiung mayoral elections. It is impossible for the KMT to make way for the PFP since we need to respond to our party members who declare their intention to run," Ma said yesterday morning after presiding over a municipal meeting.

"Chairman Soong and I discussed the nomination mechanism for the Taipei councilor elections, not the mayoral election ? It is impossible [for the KMT to make any concessions] on the matter," Ma said.

During a year-end dinner party with the PFP Taipei city councilors late on Monday night, Soong said he has deep feelings for Taipei City, and serving the residents is neither a petty job nor a waste of his talent.

"Serving people is never a petty job. I will listen to people's voices and understand their needs along with the Taipei city councilors," he said on Monday night at the dinner party, adding that he will make a final decision after the Lunar New Year.

Another KMT heavyweight, however, threw his support behind Soong.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) yesterday gave his blessing to Soong and said that he would be happy to see Soong have the opportunity to serve the country.

Wang also said that he believes Ma would use his political wisdom to nominate the best candidate to represent the pan-blue alliance.

There has been a great deal of speculation about Soong entering the Taipei mayoral election, but as yet he has not confirmed his position. While running for Taipei mayor may be seen as a come down for Soong when taking into account his political experience, he has expressed his willingness to enter the race realizing that the party needs him to use his charisma in its battle for survival.

Whether Soong's move will help to save his party remains unclear, as many PFP members are said to be planning to leave and join the KMT, but his announcement may cause some conflict within the pan-blue camp regarding the issue of the nomination mechanism.

Huang You-chong (黃幼中), PFP city council caucus whip, said grass-roots supporters questioned the party's ideals last year following Soong's meeting with the president. Soong's decision to enter the mayoral race may just salvage some kind of future for the party.

Chong said that most party members have reached a consensus over the issue and would like to see Soong run in the year-end Taipei mayoral election.

But not everyone will be happy if Soong runs.

There are five or six KMT members who have already expressed an interest in running for Taipei mayor, including KMT Legislator Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) and former Taipei deputy mayor Ou Chin-der (歐晉德).

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