Talk of split persists as KMT fails to pick candidate

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 February, 2007, 12:00am

Taiwan's main opposition Kuomintang party failed to reach a conclusion yesterday on who should represent it in the race for the island's presidency next year.

Other than resolving to find the 'strongest team' to be KMT's standard-bearer, party leaders were unable to bridge the differences between former chairman Ma Ying-jeou and the Speaker of the island's legislature, Wang Jin-pyng.

Political analyst Hsu Yung-ming, of top Taiwanese institution Academia Sinica, said if no compromise was reached between the two, a KMT split would be inevitable.

Ma resigned as party chairman on Tuesday after he was charged with corruption, but at the same time declared his intention to contest the presidential election.

According to prosecutors, Ma embezzled more than NT$11 million (HK$2.6 million) in special government allowances while Taipei mayor between 1998 and 2006.

Ma set up a campaign headquarters in Taipei yesterday to underline his determination to run for the presidency, which he said was a way to reclaim justice.

However, the launch of his campaign has put him in conflict with Mr Wang, who is also planning to seek the KMT's nomination to contest the presidency.

In a bid to close the rift between Ma and Mr Wang, honorary chairman Lien Chan - who led the party before Ma took over the chairmanship in July 2005 - held a closed-door meeting with the KMT heavyweights in an attempt to resolve their differences.

Acting KMT chairman Wu Poh-hsiung, who also attended the meeting, said a 'strong consensus that we must jointly name a team that can best compete in the election' had been reached.

He said the participants had also agreed the KMT must defend the island and the people's interests; that a new chairman be elected as soon as possible; that the party should quickly discuss preparation for the year-end legislative election; and that aides for party heavyweights remain neutral and do not randomly criticise rival camps.

Meanwhile, former premier Frank Hsieh Chang-ting, one of the four frontrunners in the race to represent the ruling Democratic Progressive Party in the presidential election, officially announced his plan to run. He beat Premier Su Tseng-chang, Vice-President Annette Lu Hsiu-lien, and DPP chairman Yu Shyi-kun, to become the first DPP heavyweight to announce a presidential bid.