Tue, Feb 06, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Ma biding his time on possible presidential bid

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH CNA

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday that he would announce his 2008 presidential bid "at the right time."

Ma made the remark during a visit to the outlying county of Penghu as part of his ongoing nationwide tour in his capacity as KMT chairman. Having stepped down as mayor last December, Ma is making the tour to gauge public opinion on key issues.

Ma has been troubled by the possibility that he will be indicted on embezzlement charges over his alleged misuse of his mayoral special allowance fund. Speculation has run rife that Ma will be indicted once the prosecution concludes its investigation of the case on Friday.

Although Ma is widely tipped as the "pan-blue alliance's" best bet for the 2008 presidential election, he might be pressured into withdrawing if he is prosecuted.

In Penghu, KMT members urged Ma not to abandon his desire to take part in the next presidential election. Ma thanked them for their support and said that he would announce his presidential bid "at the proper time."

Ma also met Penghu County Commissioner Wang Chien-fa (王乾發) and other officials to discuss local party affairs.

Ma promised that the KMT and its allies would jointly field the most qualified candidates in December's legislative elections and next year's presidential race.

The KMT chairman added that the party's primaries would begin in early April.

"Unity and reform remain the party's top priorities," he said.

Meanwhile, PFP Spokesman Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) called on the KMT and the PFP to put their new "cooperative framework" -- the result of a formal agreement reached last month -- to good use in the upcoming elections.

Should the two parties fail to improve their performance as a result of the new alliance it would definitely disappoint their supporters, Lee said.

PFP legislative caucus whip Cheng Chin-ling (鄭金玲) said she was in favor of fielding common candidates in the December legislative elections under the name of the alliance.

The two parties must do their utmost to secure "pan-blue" victory in future elections, she said.

The PFP members' comments came after it was reported that KMT Secretary-General Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) and his PFP counterpart, Chin Ching-sheng (秦金生), would this week begin discussing cross-party cooperation in the year-end legislative elections.

Meanwhile, Lung Ying-tai (龍應台), an author and a professor at the University of Hong Kong, yesterday published a "confession" urging Ma not to give up his presidential bid.

In her article titled "Confession of Crime," published in the Chinese-language China Times, Lung said she was disturbed by the prospect of Taiwanese voters being left with few candidates to choose from as a result of the "ridiculous" special allowance fund case.

Lung said that based on her own experiences as former director-general of the Taipei City Government's Department of Cultural Affairs, it was customary for public administrators to consider half of their special allowances as part of their salaries.

The fact that city councils saw the funds in the same light was evident from the practice of reducing such allowances as a form of punishment for errant local government chiefs, Lung said.

"It was only through Ma's case, four years after I left my government position, that I heard this [using the special allowance fund to pay for personal expenses] described as `corruption,'" she said.

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