People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) on Wednesday unveiled a list of 10 candidates who will represent the party in the legislative elections in January, declaring the PFP’s determination to go its own way, despite calls from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) for the two parties to work together.
As the leader of a once close KMT ally, Soong criticized President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and the KMT for their poor performance and said he would stand as a candidate for president, legislator or legislator-at-large.
Political analyst Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒) said the 69-year-old political veteran’s declaration of war against the KMT reflected the PFP’s resentment over tensions between the two parties in recent years, with the KMT failing to share its political resources with its much smaller ally.
Talk of a “third force” alliance by former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) who proposed the establishment of a moderate centrist organization to end rancorous partisan struggle between pan-blue and pan-green camps, and declining support for Ma have boosted Soong’s confidence that the PFP can regain political influence, Shih said.
“James Soong is a political animal who doesn’t want to miss the elections. Low support for the two parties’ candidates also gives him a perfect reason to throw his hat in the ring,” he said.
The PFP’s presentation of its own legislative nominees and Soong’s possible presidential candidacy has raised concerns in the KMT that the pan-blue vote could be split, making Ma’s bid for re-election even more difficult.
Recent polls have shown Ma and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) are running neck-and-neck.
However, a survey published by the Chinese-language China Times earlier this month indicated that Soong would not make much of an impact on the presidential election, with a support rate of only 10.3 percent of prospective voters, making little dent in support for Ma and Tsai, which remained at about 33 percent and 28 percent respectively.
Political science professor Liao Da-chi (廖達琪) said Soong was ignoring the KMT’s call for joint legislative nominations in order to ensure the PFP’s survival as a political party, because only parties with a legislative caucus are able to get close to the center of power.
She said that it was more likely Soong would run for president than take part in the legislative elections or be listed as a legislator-at-large, with helping the PFP obtain a minimum of three seats in the legislature in order to form a caucus being his goal.
“Soong has made it clear that he wants to guide reform in the legislature, but I don’t think he would take up the fight with only a slim chance of winning, especially after his defeat in the election for Taipei mayor,” she said.
Soong finished a close second in the 2000 presidential election as an independent candidate and in 2004 when he ran as vice presidential candidate with the KMT’s Lien Chan (連戰). In contrast, his showing in the 2006 Taipei mayoral election was a disaster, garnering just 4.1 percent of the vote.
Facing a pan-blue split, the KMT has said it will continue its efforts to undertake joint nominations in districts where candidates have not been selected.
PFP Taipei City Councilor -Vivian Huang (黃珊珊), who will run in the legislative election in Taipei City, said the PFP has not refused to talk to the KMT, but it was impossible for the party to stop the legislator-at-large nomination process. She urged the KMT to present a feasible plan on collaboration before negotiations start.