Lien-Ma ticket for 2008 vote unfeasible, says opposition

Local report says 'big shots' want former KMT chief to run again

KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou tells media that despite their ethnic backgrounds, officials who are elected by Taiwanese into central and local governments

A pairing of former vice president Lien Chan (連戰) and Kuomintang Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in the 2008 presidential campaign to "perpetuate localized political power" is unfeasible, opposition legislators said yesterday.The lawmakers were responding to an article published in the Chinese-language United Daily News yesterday, which reported that a group of unnamed pro-government opinion leaders and business tycoons had discussed with Lien the possibility of returning to politics and running for the presidency again, after failed bids in 2000 and 2004.
Part of the argument was that Lien's presence on a Lien-Ma ticket would produce a "localized," or Taiwan-centric, image and attract voters who identify with Taiwan but have been disappointed with the current Democratic Progressive Party government formed mostly of native Taiwanese figures.
The lawmakers declared, however, that manipulating Taiwan's voters using "localization" rhetoric would only lead to sharper confrontations between the government and the opposition, especially as the word has become linked to corruption.
Taiwan's voters have enough sense to select their preferred leader of Taiwan based on qualities such as integrity and leadership, the lawmakers stated, adding that being "bentu" as it's known in Chinese, or "of this land," should not be among the shortlist of assets a presidential candidate requires.
After all, "who isn't 'of this land' these days?" asked KMT Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆). He added that the KMT has a comprehensive nomination mechanism that does not allow intervention by any "big shot" in Taiwan.
According to the United Daily News article, the "big shots," including the head of a local financial holding company, asked Lien to "set an example for Ma," who is considered the frontrunner to become the country's next president.
The opinion and business leaders observed that President Chen had no administrative at the national level before becoming president and had performed poorly as a result. They worried that the same thing might happen if Ma were elected, the report said.
With Lien, who was vice president from 1996 to 2000, Ma would have time to gain experience on how to be a capable president, the report said, and further suggested a Lien-Ma ticket would have a more "localized" image.
Ma, who was born in Hong Kong and is more associated with those who came to Taiwan from China after the Chinese Civil War in 1949, did not comment except to say: "I am pretty localized!"
Some speculated that the "big shots" asked Lien to be Ma's partner because Ma's charisma has not worked its magic on so-called "local identity" voters, meaning he will not win the election without tha help of Lien and his reputation.
KMT Legislator Hsu Chung-hsiung (徐中雄) stressed, however, that "localization" is considered to be a cultural phenomenon, not a political trend, and that Lien had already left Taiwan's political arena and would not consider returning anytime soon.
Pro-government lawmakers also voiced their skepticism over the pairing.
"What makes (the people who introduced the Lien-Ma duo proposal) think that Ma, who is now seen as the commander-in-chief of the pan-blue camp, would agree to a title below Lien?" asked Huang Wei-cher, a legislator with the governing Democratic Progressive Party.
However, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) of the KMT described a Lien-Ma pairing as an idea worth considering.
Wang stressed, however, that it was the first time he had heard of the option, and noted that during his earlier visits with Lien, the honorary KMT chairman did not convey any desire to enter the presidential race in 2008.