Pan-blue merger struggling amid renewed discord

By Debby Wu and Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Thu, Jul 15, 2004 - Page 3

A new round of controversy has arisen over the past two days as the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the People First Party (PFP) have voiced differing opinions on a possible merger.

A local Chinese-language daily reported yesterday that the PFP intended to delay the merger due to strong opposition from PFP Vice Chairman Chang Chao-hsiung (張昭雄), and that consequently the KMT had had to abort its plan to hold an interim party congress next month to discuss and approve the merger plan.

Nonetheless, the KMT headquarters two days ago approved an amendment to its party constitution that eliminated a regulation stipulating that members who have been disciplined and whose party memberships have been rescinded cannot run for the party's chairmanship or central standing committee membership.

The amendment would allow James Soong (宋楚瑜) to return to the KMT and with full membership rights.

The amendment must be passed by the party congress to come into effect.

The PFP, reacting media reports about tensions, yesterday denied that there had been any opposition to the merger.

PFP Legislator Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄), the party's caucus whip for the next legislative session, said that the PFP was happy to see cooperation between the parties and that the PFP had been putting a lot of effort into cooperation.

"Ever since the presidential election, the PFP has been working to unite the parties and build smooth cooperation, and this has been witnessed by many. I can't figure out why our allied party would release false information [that Chang opposes a merger] when [Soong] is not in the country," Liu said.

"Everyone is working for the good of the alliance, and I hope those who are broadcasting false information can spare us," Liu said.

Chang also said yesterday that he supported cooperation between the KMT and the PFP fully.

"But the KMT first has to eliminate [former president] Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) influence within the party, and to solve the problems of ethnic and cross-strait conflicts and `black gold' politics, problems which were built up during Lee's tenure, so that the KMT-PFP cooperation can meet public expectations," Chang said.

But KMT members were not optimistic yesterday about a merger happening soon.

KMT Legislator Huang Teh-fu (黃德福), the party's caucus whip for the next legislative session, said that the amendment to the party constitution and the merger plan had to be ratified by the interim party congress, which could only be held when relations between the KMT and the PFP were good.

"But this is not likely to happen before the legislative elections," Huang said.

Another top KMT official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, also said that the merger was something better discussed after the legislative elections.

But Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), also vice chairman of the KMT, expressed enthusiasm about the merger.

Ma said that the merger of the KMT and PFP was a necessary step for the pan-blue camp if it wants to make a comeback, according to KMT's recent poll.

"Over 66 percent of the pan-blue camp's grassroots supporters demand that the KMT merge with the PFP," Ma said yesterday after the KMT standing committee meeting.

"Although some party members have voiced different opinions on this issue, we [in the KMT] have never stopped trying to facilitate a union between the two parties."