For the first time in five years, since the Democratic Progressive Party came into power in 2000, a Kuomintang chairman is expected to stand along President Shui-bian and other high-ranking DPP officials in the annual New Year flag-raising ceremony today.
KMT chairman, Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) emphasized that his participation in the ceremony holds no special significance except to say he has always attended the celebration to ring in the new year with the public.
The ceremony, which is scheduled at 6:30 a.m. a t the plaza in front of the Presidential Office, is jointly organized by six leading industrial and business associations.
Unlike his predecessor, Ma will lead officials from the KMT party headquarters in singing the national anthem. In the past, former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) refused to join the crowds on the presidential office plaza. Instead, he participated in separate celebrations, in places such as the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, to mark the first day of the year.
Vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) lauded Ma's decision and said his non-bipartisan gesture is a sign of unity between the ruling and opposition parties.
A different tune
"Chairman Ma is very different from Chairman Lien. Since we all agree to recognize the Republic of China, then it is important for the country that both sides stand together to welcome in the new year," said Lu.
Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) is also expected to take part in the ceremony, according to the organizers.
At the ceremony, the 20 winners of this year's Presidential Education Awards will lead the crowd in singing the national anthem. The flag-raising ceremony will be followed by a series of performances.
People wanting to attend the celebration will be allowed to enter the plaza from 5:30 am.
The organizers prohibit all items not related to the events, such as political party flags, banners, leaflets, microphones or any articles that may potentially disrupt the public.