Sun, May 13, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Ma, Wang remain silent about KMT replacement story

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) were silent on reports that Wang could serve as Ma's replacement should Ma be unable to take part in the 2008 presidential election.

Ma did not offer answers to questions about reports in Friday's Chinese-language China Times that quoted Chan Chun-po (詹春柏), manager of Ma's campaign office, as saying that if Wang agreed to a ticket with Ma, then he would "naturally fill Ma's place" should Ma not run.

Wang on Friday said that "it was not appropriate" for him to talk about the matter.

The KMT issued a press release later in the day saying that if Ma were unable to run because of "political persecution," the KMT, while respecting Ma's views, would produce a replacement in accordance with the party's nomination mechanism.

The KMT's Organization and Development Committee said in the release that the party's presidential candidate would be nominated through a strict mechanism that followed a set procedure and that Chan's views were no more than "his personal opinion."

A KMT legislator close to Ma also said that Ma does not intend to have Wang serve as his replacement if he is sentenced for corruption.

KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇), a protege of Ma, said that Chan's words did not reflect Ma's real intention.

Ma's stance is unequivocal -- he believes he will be acquitted and that he could not possibly be convicted of corruption, so the question of a replacement is moot, Wu said.

Reports have said reasons for Wang's reluctance to consent to teaming up with Ma can be traced to their bitter battle for the KMT chairmanship in 2005, in which Wang was soundly beaten.

Wang's refusal to join the possible ticket is also thought to be related to Ma's involvement in the court case, especially after the KMT announced plans to revise party regulations to let Ma run for president even if he is convicted in the first trial.

The planned revision will state that the KMT will not nominate a member as a candidate once their conviction is final.

Prosecutors indicted Ma on Feb. 13 for allegedly embezzling NT$11.17 million (US$338,500) of his special allowance fund during his term as Taipei mayor between 1998 and last year.

Ma has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

The prosecution alleges that the money that was wired into Ma's personal bank accounts should be considered "gains from embezzlement."

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