With Ma Ying-jeou out, infighting could split KMT, say observers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 February, 2007, 12:00am

Taiwan's Kuomintang faces fierce infighting following Ma Ying-jeou's resignation as its chairman and his announcement he will contest the island's presidential election next year.

Observers and Taiwanese news media said the development was likely to split the century-old party, which has been struggling to regain power since losing the presidency to the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party in 2000.

Supporters of Mr Ma and his rival, legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, yesterday traded barbs over whether it was proper for the party to remove a bylaw which forced Ma's resignation when he was indicted for corruption this week.

Removing the bylaw could allow Ma to run as the party's candidate next year.

The main opposition party held an emergency meeting after Ma was charged with embezzling NT$11 million (HK$2.6 million) in special government allowances during his stint as Taipei mayor between 1998 and 2006, an indictment Ma called 'utterly unacceptable'.

The decision taken at the meeting late on Tuesday to drop the bylaw was interpreted by Mr Wang's supporters as a special favour for Ma, whose announcement that he would nevertheless run for president caught Mr Wang - another likely contender - off guard.

KMT lawmakers supporting Mr Wang yesterday cried foul, saying the decision was improper.

'This will only create more problems within the party,' said Huang Chao-shun, who is seen as a supporter of Mr Wang.

KMT legislator Hung Hsiu-chu said that, in dealing with Ma's case, the party had failed to take Mr Wang's feelings into account, adding this 'would only sabotage the unity within the party'.

But Ma's supporters said the bylaw that prevented indicted members running for election on the party ticket was unreasonable.

Honorary KMT chairman Lien Chan said he would meet Ma and Mr Wang tomorrow to discuss who should be the party's presidential candidate.

Meanwhile, President Chen Shui-bian appeared in high spirits yesterday, singing three songs during a gathering with local and foreign media. He declined to comment on Ma's indictment.

Mr Chen had come under pressure to step down over a string of corruption scandals linked to him, his wife and aides. His wife, Wu Shu-chen, was charged in November with embezzling NT$14.8 million in secret state funds, and is now on trial.