Sat, Aug 13, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Soong voices stronger interest in presidency

NOT RULED OUT:The PFP chairman said in an interview that although he was not planning to announce his candidacy, he did have the qualifications for the top job

Staff Writer, with CNA

People First Party Chairman James Soong, left, and the party’s Vice Chairman Chang Chao-hsiung chant slogans on Wednesday in Taipei.

Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times

People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) said on Thursday he is more willing to run for president today than he was last month, but would not make any announcement for the time being.

“There is a strategic reason for staying put,” said Soong in an interview with ERA TV, referring to the story of a wise general in Chinese history who remained composed as the enemy approached.

Staying put is not a gesture of fear, but rather an art, the veteran politician said in a two-hour cable television interview with senior reporters and political commentators.

Though the 69-year-old contended that it was not yet the right time to declare his intentions, he hinted his interest was increasing.

When asked whether he was more willing to take on the -challenge now than when he was interviewed by the same cable TV station a month ago, Soong indicated that he was, saying that if the benchmark last month was “zero,” he was now at a “one” due to the encouragement and support of the public.

Soong added, however, that running for president was not a trivial matter and that many factors still needed to be considered, including manpower, money and the social environment. He nonetheless spent time during the interview elaborating on what he believed were his presidential qualifications, including his training in diplomacy and experience serving late president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國).

Soong, the only elected governor of Taiwan Province from 1994 to 1998, was a heavyweight in the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) before breaking from the party in 1999, when he was not nominated as the party’s candidate in the 2000 presidential election, to launch his own bid.

Running as an independent, he lost to then-Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) by fewer than 3 percentage points — 39.3 percent to 36.84 percent — but finished well ahead of then-KMT’s nominee Lien Chan (連戰), who gained 23.1 percent of the vote.

The split in votes among pan-blue supporters might have handed Chen the presidency and Soong acknowledged that if he were to enter next year’s race, it could also cause a rift in the pan-blue camp and make President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) bid for re-election even more difficult than it already is.

Polls indicate that Ma and DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) are running neck-and-neck. Soong saw himself, however, as more than just a potential spoiler.

“There are not many people who do not know James Soong in Taiwan,” he said, when comparing his popularity with Ma and Tsai.

However, the last time he participated in an election, in the 2006 mayoral race in Taipei, he fared poorly. Soong garnered only 4.14 percent of the vote, lagging far behind KMT candidate Hau Lung-bin’s (郝龍斌) 53.81 percent and DPP candidate Frank Hsieh’s (謝長廷) 40.89 percent.

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