Ma's overture fails to convince rival
Jacky Hsu in Taipei
New KMT chief can't convince Speaker to serve as deputy
The new leader of Taiwan's biggest opposition party failed yesterday to persuade his defeated rival to serve as his deputy.
In the latest development threatening to widen a party rift, political analysts said they were not worried about a split in the 110-year-old Kuomintang, which last Saturday elected popular Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou as its leader to succeed Lien Chan.
Despite an apologetic overture from Mr Ma, his campaign rival, legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, remained unmoved.
Asked by reporters about a morning meeting at KMT headquarters, Mr Wang said he had told Mr Ma not to consider him as a vice-chairman.
At a KMT central standing committee meeting yesterday, all participants supported a decision to make Mr Lien honorary chairman after he officially steps down on August 19.
Before the meeting, Mr Ma waited outside the KMT headquarters for Mr Wang, who is serving as acting chairman while Mr Lien visits the US.
The two talked for more than 30 minutes and afterwards Mr Wang said Mr Ma had asked him to continue serving as the KMT's first vice-chairman after he took over from Mr Lien.
He said the mayor had told him that if he did not accept the post, the three other vice-chairmen of the KMT might not wish to continue as deputies and this would affect party unity. 'I told him there wasn't anything like that, and it was also not the way to forge unity [of the party].'
The KMT has five vice-chairmen, including Mr Wang and Mr Ma. Mr Wang said he asked Mr Ma not to consider him as he had decided to serve as a lifelong volunteer worker for the KMT. He denied saying that he would only accept the post if Mr Ma apologised for running a negative campaign against him during the election.
Mr Ma said yesterday he had apologised six times to Mr Wang at different venues, including once during the private meeting and again during the central standing committee meeting.
But Mr Wang later said he did not think that Mr Ma had offered an apology.
Political analysts said Mr Wang might have hurt feelings after the election but such frustration should not last long because the party could not afford a split if it wanted to regain power in the 2008 presidential race.
Emile Sheng Chih-jen, political science professor at Soochow University, said: 'Both Mr Wang and Mr Ma are sensible and soft-type persons who are less likely to remain in long-time rivalry, which will do them no good if they want the party to regain power.'
Mr Lien said yesterday in Washington, where he met President George W. Bush, that he was pleased to accept the honorary chairman's post.