Dad’s presidential nomination shocks Ma

TAIPEI, Taiwan, The China Post Staff

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou yesterday expressed surprise at his father’s public suggestions for him to run for the presidency.

“I’m very surprised,” Ma said in Los Angeles — where he was taking a business trip — when asked to comment on his father’s call reported by the United Daily News. The newspaper quoted the Kuomintang stalwart’s father, Ma He-ling, as vowing that “I definitely want my son to run for the presidency.” The 85-year-old dad said the mayor is facing hostile rivalry from inside and outside his own camp, whose present leaders — Lien Chan and James Soong — “are refusing to let go” despite their defeat in the May 20 presidential race. The mayor was cited by Taiwan’s media as saying that he had met his father before departing for the U.S., and his father said nothing about the 2008 presidential election. The charismatic mayor said he is not an “unrealistically ambitious” person, and his present focus was still on the city’s affairs. He said it was understandable for a father to have “high expectations” for his son, asking the public not to “make overt political readings” of the senior Ma’s remarks. Since the defeat of the Lien-Soong presidential ticket, Ma has been considered by many KMT members as the only hope for the former ruling party. But the mayor has never made any public commitment to running in the next presidential race. His father’s remarks drew mostly caution and mockery from both the ruling and opposition camp. KMT Chairman Lien declined to comment, telling reporters to “go ask Ma He-ling.” The mayor’s major rival for the KMT’s 2008 presidential candidacy, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, said — apparently out of politeness — that Ma is “excellent” and “deserves the people’s support.”

When asked if Lien and Soong are standing in Ma’s way to the presidency, Wang said, “That’s unlikely.” Tseng Yung-chuan, head of the KMT’s Central Policy Committee, said the party was yet to make any decisions concerning the next presidential race, which is still more than three years from now. “It isn’t even an issue at the moment,” said Tseng.

Legislator Chiu Yi-ying, of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, joked that her father had also asked her to go for the presidency. Legislator Chen Chien-ming, whip of the Taiwan Solidarity Union, said he made a wish on Father’s Day that his little son would grow up to be president. DPP Legislator Ker Chien-ming said resolving to become president did not mean one would eventually become so. Ker said he did not want to comment on the KMT-PFP’s “family affairs,” but “no one should talk about these things so early.” Premier Yu Shyi-kun said the senior Ma’s outburst shows the mayor and his inner circle are getting impatient with Lien and Soong’s reluctance to hand over the reins. Yu urged Lien and Soong quickly step down to make way for the young turks.