Wang says he will not run for KMT chair

The China Post staff

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng yesterday confirmed that he is preparing for his presidential campaign and will not run for the Kuomintang’s (KMT’s) top post. Wang said he is ready to mount a presidential campaign although he has yet to make a formal announcement. It is the first time the parliamentary leader has admitted openly that he will run for the presidency. Wang said he will be too busy preparing the presidential campaign and handling his parliamentary job, and therefore will not be able to running for the KMT chairmanship. “The KMT chairmanship is definitely not one of my options,” Wang said. His major contender for the KMT presidential nomination, former KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou, said he was not surprised by Wang’s plan. But Ma stressed that the KMT will be fielding only “one single ticket” for the presidential poll. The chairmanship race is complicating the KMT presidential nomination, which will be decided by a primary if the contenders fail to agree a deal. Many KMT members fear that the leadership race will fuel an internal power struggle between supporters of Wang and Ma ahead of the year-end legislative elections. Ma stepped down as KMT chairman last month after he was indicted for corruption.

At the same time, Ma announced his presidential bid in what he described as a campaign to clear his name of corruption. While Ma is more popular with voters and grassroots party members, Wang has better ties with other KMT leaders, including former Chairman Lien Chan. Lien is trying to intervene into the rivalry between Wang and Ma to avoid a split that would benefit the ruling Democratic Progressive Party in next year’s presidential poll. Lien managed to have Wang and Ma agree to stay united during meeting before Chinese New Year. But they have not yet agreed how their rivalry can be settled. Lien also seems to be ready to come out of retirement to lead the KMT again. Wang’s decision not to run in the chairmanship election latest was like declaration of support for Lien’s return, observers said. But Wang denied that he had reached any deal with Lien over the party leadership election. KMT Legislator Hsu Shu-po yesterday claimed that more than half of his colleagues from the party support the idea of having Lien lead the KMT again. Hsu, who launched a drive calling for Lien’s return, said 67 of 111 KMT lawmakers had already endorsed his campaign. He claimed some party lawmakers promised to support but declined to sign his petition to be presented to Lien. Hsu declined to unveil the petition, but said he would vouch for the truth of his claim.

The KMT has slated a by-election for April 7 to fill the post left behind by Ma. Lien led the party between 2000 and 2005 and was given the ceremonial title of KMT honorary chairman when he retired.

Lien’s top aide, Ting Yuan-chao maintained that if Lien returned to the top party post, it would not be out of his love of power. Lien would be acting as a mediator and arbitrator, Ting said.