Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Soong of Ice and Fire

There are no men like me. There's only me.

Like Lazarus beckoned from his tomb, People First Party (PFP) Chairman and former KMT heavyweight James Soong has risen from the political dead. Despite being defeated for president in 2000, for Veep in 2004, and buried in 2006 for Taipei mayor,  merely by combining the words "President" and "me" in the same sentence, Soong has performed Cardio-Presidential Resuscitation on himself.

First came the untrammeled joy in the pro-Taiwan camp. The Taipei Times reported with barely restrained glee on the will-o-wisp of Soong running as an independent presidential candidate.
Concerns mounted yesterday about an emerging rift in the pan-blue camp amid speculation that People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) could run for election in January.

Facing a tough battle next year, some members of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) fear Soong’s entry on a separate ballot would take votes away from the party’s legislative candidates.

Soong, who came within 320,000 votes of winning the presidency in 2000, has refused to say whether he would run next year as a district or at-large legislator, but PFP officials have confirmed that the idea is being considered.
Soong's party, the PFP, has been making noises about running its own slate of legislative candidates against the KMT in heavily pro-KMT districts. This might actually hurt the KMT, maybe even more so than a Soong run for the Presidency -- he's nearly 70, got clobbered in the last election he ran in, and his party is an afterthought to the KMT among the pan-Blues. Can't even say "the pro-China side", as the PFP appears to follow the Han Solo Creed: Look, I ain't in this for your revolution, and I'm not in it for you, Princess.... In the city council election last year, of 314 city council seats at play in the five major municipalities, the PFP won a whopping.....four. That is not the sign of a surging political banner....

That canny politician former President Lee Teng-hui even fanned the flames of the Soong Revival, saying that Soong was qualified to pursue a higher position in politics than legislator. Soong has been playing coy, saying he is considering running for President....or maybe just legislator in Hualien. Hualien has been sturdily pan-Blue since the Deluge; the current County Chief, Fu Kun-chi, is an ardent pan-Blue even though he is technically independent since for some corruption thing he had to leave the KMT and run against the KMT candidate in the last election [yawn]. Fu also came out this week in support of a Soong run for local legislator, saying he did not want to see a split in the pan-Blue side.

Soong is obviously seeking some kind of leverage for something he wants -- a run in Hualien would be a guaranteed pan-Blue seat, so Soong would get elected if there was no competition from the KMT. Yet it is difficult to see him actually getting that seat for promising not to do something -- once he publicly announced he wasn't running for president, his leverage would disappear, and the KMT might still play hardball and run a candidate against him in Hualien, removing him forever from political circulation if Soong is defeated.

Nor would his PFP candidates pack their tents if he ordered; they need those legislator positions to feed and water their patronage networks. If Soong wants to keep the PFP viable, this election has to be taken seriously by the PFP; the KMT has nearly iced the party, reclaiming its politicians or cannibalizing its seats.

Ma and Soong are often said to detest each other and it is easy to fantasize about him running just to spite Ma -- yes, that's right, spending millions of dollars and gallivanting around Taiwan for six months just to be a thorn in Ma's side. Sorry. Can't see that.

Nope, if Soong doesn't get something important out this and then doesn't run for President, no one will ever take the talk of a Soong presidential run seriously again. This. is. it.

Hard to say at the moment, but I am going to go out on a limb here and argue that Soong is trying to gain leverage to keep the PFP alive in the legislative elections. Simply by combining "president" and "me" in the same sentence Soong has riveted the attention of both the pan-Blue and pan-Green camps (thankfully diverting everyone from the unseemly sight of two DPP politicians at each other's throats over allegations of sexual misbehavior). He has also gotten plenty of free PR from Taiwan's Golden Retriever media, always eager for a new story. Smart move by a politician whose name is often paired with the word "canny".....
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Anonymous said...

Maybe he needed cash.

SY said...

I don't see Soong being serious...

As soon as China tells Soong to shut up, Soong will disappear before China finishes its "sentence".

The trojan horse of China is Ma and the true boss is China. Soong knows it, Ma knows it. That's why Ma snubs Soong all the way even while Ma's pan-blue base is freezing (if not slowly eroding.)

The boss always let the boys play a bit to give them a sense of being alive and then tell them to get their acts together when time comes to shoot.

Anonymous said...

There's also talk - fanned by Lee Teng-hui - of a Tsai-Soong deal in the event of a DPP win. Unless that is convincingly refuted (and so far it hasn't been) it will just confirm the belief of most people that all Taiwan's politicians are just opportunists. That will hurt the DPP.

a said...

Totally agree. For Soong, this is about maintaining influence in the legislature. He will go to great lengths to see that influence maintained because it is really his only remaining tie to any sort of power.

Anon, Tsai did refute it yesterday.

Anonymous said...

@a - I know, hence my saying "convincingly". Her response didn't leave me with any confidence that the matter has truly been put to bed, and in fact, the TT is talking it up again today so even they weren't convinced.


Ryan said...

Song in Hualien? Do. Not. Want.