Taiwan’s Presidential Elections: the Feather that could break the Balance

If James Soong‘s (宋楚瑜) People First Party (PFP, 亲民党) should participate in the presidential and legislative elections in January, its results could provide information about how strong – or weak – the party actually is. Its clout had declined while it cooperated with the main party from the pan-blue camp, the KMT, during the past years, writes the BBC Chinese website.

James Soong was a KMT official before running as an independent in Taiwan’s Y2K presidential elections which split the pan-blue camp and brought the DPP’s Chen Shui-bian to power. If Taiwan’s electorate gets to choose between two pan-blue presidential candidates – incumbent Ma Ying-jeou and James Soong -, Tsai Ing-wen, the DPP’s  presidential nominee for the January elections, could win by a relative majority.

But only the PFP’s participation in the Legislative Yuan elections would be for real (选总统是虚,选立委是实) in 2012, argues the BBC article, given the PFP’s relative weakness. If Soong should take part in the presidential elections, it would mainly be to highlight his party’s participation in the Legislative Yuan elections, i. e. to support the campaigns of the PFP’s Legislative-Yuan candidates. If Soong is actually going to be the PFP’s presidential nominee (and if there will be a PFP presidential nominee at all) will turn out by September 20th, as this is the deadline to register as an independent candidate. The article points out that once that cat is out of the bag, Soong’s greatest bargaining chip in his negotiations with the KMT would be gone.

Soong’s own explanation for considering a presidential nomination is, of course, more idealistic:

There have been some polls lately showing that some people wish for me to take part, but I have to say with all seriousness now that if I do run in the election, it is not because I wish to pull anyone down. The fact that there are now 10 percent of people wanting me to run in the presidential election shows there are still considerable reservations about the current presidential nominees, and the two political parties’ policies and their performance,

Soong told the Liberty Times in July. The PFP’s first priority, however, was the establishment of a caucus in the legislature.

Negotiations between the PFP and the KMT would only seem to make sense in that they focus on the question if the best possible deal the KMT can offer the PFP would be good enough for the PFP to accept cooperation, rather than competition. But there may still be another issue in the negotiations which isn’t mentioned by the BBC article. In July, the Taipei Times referred to news reports alleging the KMT has demanded Soong return NT$240 million (US$8.342 million) he allegedly took from the party in 1999. The KMT assets – it is probably still one of the world’s richest political parties – are a hot issue anyway, but when it comes to “money taken from” someone or from some organization by a politician, it can quickly result in criminal charges in Taiwan’s judiciary which is frequently, and probably justifiably, believed to be partisan.

Soong wouldn’t have so many options these days, if Ma Ying-jeou’s  record as the incumbent president was more convincing, believes the BBC article. As a result from Ma’s rather poor accomplishments, Ma and his DPP challenger Tsai Ing-wen were now basically neck-on-neck. Soong could become the feather that breaks the balance.



How Liberal can Taiwan’s DPP become, July 8, 2011



Soong with little impact, says poll, Taipei Times, August 6, 2011


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