Former justice minister Liao backs out of year-end elections

The China Post staff

Former justice minister Liao Cheng-hao has decided against running in the year-end elections, disrupting the Kuomintang-People First Party’s joint campaign in the Taipei County commissioner race.

“What I need is the development of our country, stability in society, and happiness of the people, but not a smear-packed election,” said Liao in a written statement released late last night. He said politics should not be the only way for him to work for the country. “Because of the above mentioned considerations, plus considerations for family and other factors, I have decided to decline all calls for my participation in the Taipei County commissioner election.” He further criticized that Taiwan is filled with short-sighted political figures whose only interests are their own election campaigns and power struggle, ignoring their obligation to the country’s development and the people’s welfare. Liao did not make public appearance to explain his decision, but the written statement ended weeks of speculations over his intentions. KMT Secretary-General Lin Fong-cheng confirmed earlier yesterday that Liao had already determined to stay out of the race. The KMT would respect Liao’s decision, said Lin without giving reasons for their number one choice to reject the deal. Liao, a former KMT member who has now turned independent, on Monday cited family problems for his indecisiveness, telling reporters to expect his final decision in one or two days. According to Lin, Liao made up his mind when meeting with PFP Chairman James Soong on Monday, and later that night, Soong broke the news to his KMT counterpart, Lien Chan.

The former minister talked with Lien yesterday afternoon for two hours behind closed doors, discussing the chances of the KMT-PFP deal after his walking out, Lin said. Although the two opposition parties have failed to call up Liao in a joint-nomination bid, Lin said the KMT and PFP do not rule out other cooperation deals. He declined to name any possible replacement candidates, saying he will talk with his PFP counterpart, David Chung, to come up with “a consensus next week.”

Lien and Soong reportedly also held an emergency meeting yesterday afternoon, but no details of their talks were available. Their aides were quoted as saying that the two heavyweights discussed issues pertaining to the current political situations.

But Lin stressed that the Lien-Soong meet did not focus on the Liao withdrawal, but had already been scheduled last month for talks of the latest political developments.

With Liao quitting, KMT Legislator Lin Jih-jia and PFP Deputy Secretary-General Chin Ching-sheng remain two possible replacements. But the KMT, having snubbed Lin in favor of Liao, has yet to say whether they would settle on the lawmaker. Chin, who had been firm on his Taipei County bid, had already accepted the party’s arrangement to shift his battlefield to Hsinchu City reportedly to make way for Liao. Chin backed out Monday night after talking with the PFP Chairman James Soong, agreeing to represent the party in the Hsinchu mayor poll. Now that Liao has withdrawn, KMT Secretary-General Lin Fong-cheng said “it is not impossible” for Chin to return to the Taipei County race.

Chao Shou-po, the KMT’s chief election strategist, said Liao was not the only candidate to champion the KMT-PFP cooperation deal.