Thu, May 11, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Yeh's withdrawal lays bare power struggle in KMT

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei mayoral hopeful Yeh Chin-chuan's (葉金川) sudden withdrawal from the party's primary on Tuesday came as a surprise to both the media and his campaign team, sparking renewed competition ahead of the primary.

A written reprimand in response to a controversial campaign ad targeting another mayoral hopeful, former Environmental Protection Administration chief Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), seemed to be the reason behind Yeh's sudden withdrawal, but the incident may also have highlighted the KMT's failure to establish a democratic nomination mechanism.

The KMT already has a nomination and primary mechanism for the selection of party candidates, but the mechanism has long been ignored, since top officials often just appoint their preferred candidates.

KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has tried to shake off this tradition and took advantage of the year-end Taipei and Kaohsiung mayoral elections to establish a solid nomination system.

"The year-end elections provide an excellent opportunity for Ma to set up a new system. What Ma should do is not get involved and allow the primaries to decide the final candidate," said Emile Sheng (盛治仁), a professor of political science at Soochow University.

But Ma's pro-reform statements seem to be in conflict with his actions. The media has regarded Yeh as Ma's "chosen successor," and his entry to the mayoral race was seen as a move to continue the policies of the Ma administration, secure the city's resources and even attract more swing votes with his ethnic background as a native Taiwanese should Ma become the KMT candidate in the 2008 presidential election, even though Yeh once called himself "a person who does not play politics."

Ma tried to maintain a neutral stance, saying that "the KMT has a primary system, but no preferred candidate," and has declined to attend any campaign events for Yeh or other party hopefuls.

As the May 27 primary draws near, however, Ma's staff at the city government and members of his family have come forward to endorse Yeh.

Besides having city government officials, including Taipei Deputy Mayor King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), serving in his advisory team, Ma's mother, Chin Hou-hsiu (秦厚修), accompanied Yeh when he registered his candidacy for the KMT primary. Ma's sister Ma Yi-nan (馬以南) also attended most of Yeh's campaign events, and has asked party members to support Yeh for her brother's sake.

On Sunday, Ma made a donation of NT$8,888 to Yeh's campaign fund, sparking criticism from party members.

These moves have prompted KMT legislators Alex Tsai (蔡正元) and John Chiang (蔣孝嚴) to withdraw from the primary, accusing the city government of "taking sides." Two other hopefuls, Hau and KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chong (丁守中), while remaining in the primary, said that they "identified with" what Tsai and Chiang felt.

Meanwhile, Hsu Chia-chin (徐佳青), the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) vice caucus whip on the Taipei City Council, called Yeh an "idiot" for dropping out of the race and said the incident showed the KMT's "abnormal democracy."

"After going from five hopefuls to two, the party can now choose its candidate without holding a primary. This is clearly the result of political tactics," she said.

According to Chinese-language media, Ma was unhappy about the criticism against Yeh and demanded that the party dissuade Yeh from vying for the mayoral nomination. Ma has denied the allegations, saying he would respect any decision Yeh made.

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