Taiwan's Speaker rejects Ma poll ticket
Lawrence Chung in Taipei
Wang Jin-pyng rules out running-mate role
Wang Jin-pyng, Speaker of Taiwan's legislature, has declined to be the running mate of Kuomintang presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou, to the disappointment of opposition supporters in Taiwan.
But political pundits suggest the prospect of a split opposition vote should be slim because it is unlikely that Mr Wang would run as an independent candidate in next March's presidential election.
In a meeting between the two KMT heavyweights in Taipei yesterday, Mr Wang told his party rival Ma that he had no interest in the offer to run for vice-president, but he was willing to co-operate with the former KMT chairman in his presidential campaign.
'There is a lot we can do for the party. So I declined to accept the invitation from chairman Ma. But we have both emphasised that although there will be no Ma-Wang ticket, there will be Ma-Wang co-operation, which is very important,' he said.
His decision came a day after his close friend, legislator Lin Ping-kun, told the media that Mr Wang might accept an offer to be Ma's running mate, which surprised Ma and most opposition supporters.
In response, a disappointed Ma said he had long hoped to have Mr Wang as his running mate.
'With such a result, I of course feel disappointed, but I fully respect the decision of the Speaker,' Ma said.
Ma said now that Mr Wang had chosen to remain in his post, he would give his blessing and support the Speaker's efforts to be re-elected in the new legislature early next year. Taiwan will elect its legislature at the end of this year.
Asked if he had anyone else in mind to be his running mate, Ma said: 'Before the Speaker made any decision, I had made no effort to find a partner. Perhaps I should start doing this now.'
The failure of the two to form a union sparked speculation that Mr Wang might run as an independent candidate in March, which could split the opposition vote. Mr Wang stopped short of addressing this speculation yesterday.
But an analyst said it would be unlikely for Mr Wang to break away from the party and run as an independent. 'It is unlikely he would do so given that the Speaker has to think of the possible consequence of such a move, which would infuriate opposition supporters,' said Liu Bi-rung, professor of political science at Soochow University.
It was still too early, he said, to predict what Mr Wang's next move would be, but his decision should be a relief to Ma, who had been waiting for an answer for a long time and was unable to find other possible running mates before Mr Wang made his final decision.
'Now Ma can start finding a possible partner who can help him in the race. The vice-presidential candidate must be one who has strong influence in southern Taiwan like Wang and it would be best for the candidate to be a native Taiwanese.'
Ma is known as a mainlander, whose parents arrived in Taiwan from the mainland in 1949, after the defeat of the KMT in the civil war.