Hau Lung-bin returns to KMT fold to seek Taipei post

By Mo Yan-chih and Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Fri, Jan 20, 2006 - Page 3

Former Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) chief Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) announced yesterday that he had decided to return to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to seek the party's nomination for the Taipei mayoral election.

Hau, a New Party member, resigned as secretary-general of the Red Cross Society in Taiwan on Wednesday to concentrate on the race.

The so-called "four months regulation" -- the KMT's plan to require candidates to have held party membership for at least four months before they can run as a party candidate for a public post -- was the main reason for his decision, Hau said.

"The four-month regulation did prompt me to make the decision, but it was not the main pressure. The real pressure was the endless inquiries from the media about my intentions," he said during a press conference held at the New Party's headquarters.

Several public opinion polls have ranked Hau as the most popular pan-blue candidate for the Taipei mayor's job.

His decision to join the race could be a big challenge for the other possible pan-blue contenders, who include KMT Legislator John Chiang (蔣孝嚴), Taipei Deputy Mayor Yeh Chin-chuan (葉金川) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜).

At the press conference, the New Party Chairman Yok Mu-ming (郁慕明) said that his party's close ties with Hau will remain the same even after he returns to the KMT.

"Former New Party members such as KMT Legislator Joanna Lei (雷倩) still join our party's events and remain friendly with us ?This is a necessary process for a final merger between the two parties," he said.

While Hau wanted to follow Lei's path and maintain his New Party membership during the campaign, Liao Feng-teh (廖風德), head of the KMT's Organization and Development Committee, said the party did not allow its members to have dual party membership.

KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), the incumbent mayor, reiterated the importance of following the party's rules, which have been tightened since he became chairman last August.

"I welcome all talented people to join the race, but the KMT has its own nomination mechanism, which is for people to join the party first and then participate in the primaries to win the KMT nomination," he said.

Potential pan-blue rivals to Hau differed over his decision to return to the KMT and to enter the Taipei race.

Chiang said that he welcomed and respected Hau's decision to seek the KMT nomination because it was to Taipei's advantage to have many excellent candidates contending for the post.

Chiang emphasized, however, that he has remained loyal to the party for almost 40 years and said that he hoped the party would use a fair and reasonable primary mechanism to pick the most suitable candidate.

KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中), who is currently in the US, issued a news release welcoming Hau's return to the party fold. Ting said that he has always taken pride in being a KMT member and will not be absent from the party primary, where he was confident he would prevail.

PFP Legislator Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄), who has been backing Soong's mayoral aspirations, questioned Hau's loyalty and predicted the issue would be used by rivals to attack Hau.

Independent Legislator Li Ao (李敖) called Hau "a politician with low political ethics," citing Hau's acceptance of the Democratic Progressive Party's government offer of the EPA job when he was New Party chairman.

Li said Hau was as "incompetent" as Ma, citing the city's garbage bag scheme as one example of his ineffectiveness.

Li also described the KMT as a "rotten" and "stinky" party and vowed to stay in the Taipei race to show the public that the KMT does not represent the entire pan-blue camp.

Meanwhile, Deputy Mayor Yeh declined to say yesterday whether or not he will run.

Expectations of his candidacy arose after former deputy mayor Ou Chin-der (歐晉德), a close aide of Ma's and reportedly Ma's preferred successor, decided not to run.

"People in the city government, the city council and the grassroots all expected Ou to run" Yeh told the Taipei Times. "I will try to persuade him to join the race, and won't consider running until he says no again."