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No headway in KMT, PFP merger talks
By Xing Zhigang (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-13 06:13

Taiwan's two main opposition leaders failed to make a breakthrough in achieving a possible merger yesterday, despite a four-hour closed-door meeting aimed at boosting their strength against the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, also chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT), met James Soong, head of the People First Party (PFP), in Taipei with expectations for a merger high among supporters.

No headway in KMT, PFP merger talks
Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (left), who is also chairman of Taiwan's leading opposition Kuomintang, speaks to reporters along with James Soong, head of smaller ally People First Party, before they held closed-door discussions on a proposed merger in Taipei Monday December 12, 2005. [AFP]

PFP policy research centre director Chang Hsien-yao said the two leaders engaged in wide discussions concerning political co-operation as well as a merger.

"But a merger between the two parties faces many substantial difficulties, so it cannot be achieved immediately," Chang told Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV following the meeting.

He added that both Ma and Soong agreed to put off the merger plan until 2007, one year before the next "presidential" elections.

Both Soong and Ma expressed their hope for a possible merger between their parties ahead of their meeting. "We are going to exchange opinions in a frank manner," Soong said, adding that he hoped "it would lead to the merger of the KMT and PFP."

"Our supporters expect us to work closer together or even merge," Ma told reporters.

Pressure is mounting on the PFP to merge with its larger ally, the KMT, after its poor showing in this month's local elections, party officials have said.

A merger was first proposed last year but shelved after internal opposition from both sides. Both parties favour closer ties with the mainland.

The KMT scored a landslide victory in the December 3 elections, winning 14 of 23 constituencies up for grabs and 50.95 per cent of ballots cast on the island. The PFP only managed to garner 1.11 per cent of the vote and just one post.

The ruling DPP suffered its worst setback since Chen Shui-bian won the "presidency" in 2000, which ended the KMT's 51-year grip on power, taking only six constituencies and 41.95 per cent of the vote.

The pro-"independence" DPP also lost in Taipei county, Ilan county and Chiayi city three of its traditional strongholds.

Analysts said the PFP's poor results could spark a mass exodus of party members afraid that the group could be marginalized.

James Soong, a former KMT heavyweight, founded the PFP after he ran on a separate ticket in 2000 and narrowly lost the "presidency" to Chen.

(China Daily 12/13/2005 page2)

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