Friday, October 27, 2006

Soong and Shih together at last

I've been speculating for a while now that Shih Ming-teh, the former DPP Chairman who switched sides in 2001 and led a pro-Blue demonstration in recent weeks to try and force out President Chen Shui-bian, is a tool of James Soong, the chairman of the People First Party (PFP). This week Shih switched from attacks on former comrade-in-arms Chen Shui-bian to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), and its stolen assets:

Yesterday the Million Voices Against Corruption campaign led by former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) announced that it was changing the emphasis of the campaign from deposing President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to pursuing the stolen assets of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

At a press conference yesterday, Shih said that Chen's name had already been ruined and his place in history cemented. As Chen still hasn't been toppled and people are losing patience with the campaign's peaceful methods, he said that the next step would be to push for the passage of the "Sunshine Laws" and the passage of a law governing the assets of political parties in the legislature.

Shih said that pursuing the KMT's stolen assets had gone on for too long and needed to be solved as quickly as possible.

Is Shih a tool of Soong? Funny that the same week that Shih urges his mob to focus on the KMT, the PFP suddenly decided after a year of stonewalling to put the KMT's stolen asset bill on the legislative agenda:

After being blocked by the pan-blue alliance for more than one year in the legislature, a statute designed to divest the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) of its stolen party assets was put on the legislative agenda yesterday.

The statute passed the pan-blue controlled Procedure Committee after People First Party (PFP) lawmakers turned their backs on their political ally over the issue.

The PFP's move came as a shock to the KMT, as the parties had allegedly reached an under-the-table deal on Monday swapping KMT opposition to an arms procurement deal for PFP support in obstructing the statute.

Whether or not the bill actually reaches the floor will be determined in a vote today, but the instructive thing here is to watch how the PFP and Shih appear to be working in concert. According to the tale, Shih called Soong to ask him to put the stolen asset bill on the agenda:

Meanwhile, anti-President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) campaign leader Shih Ming-teh (施明德) said yesterday that he had called Soong last week to persuade him to place the controversial statute on the agenda.

"Party assets are a historic burden for the KMT. If [the party] doesn't deal with [the issue] now, it will follow the party like a shadow to the 2007 legislative election and the 2008 presidential election," the former DPP chairman said.

The anti-Chen campaign's newfound support for the statute, however, met with a negative response from some of its supporters, who said they had joined the campaign to demand Chen's resignation, rather than to fight the KMT.

No kidding -- the largely pro-Blue crowd's response was negative? Who wudda thunk that?

The papers are explaining the stunning PFP volteface on the asset bill as Soong, currently running for Taipei mayor as an independent -- he asked himself for a leave of absence, and then granted it to himself -- revenging himself for remarks by Taipei Mayor and KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou earlier

The PFP's actions have been interpreted by some as a revenge attack after the reputation of Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), was allegedly "damaged" by KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who supposedly leaked a story about Soong to a foreign news outlet.

Leverage, leverage, leverage. What does Soong want? With his popularity sliding..... (ESWN has the latest numbers from a China Times poll) ... anything is possible. Now that the Shih Ming-teh campaign against President Chen has pretty much shot its bolt (all talk of Shih staying there until either he or Chen is finished seems to have disappeared), Soong's Blue rival Hau Lung-bin, the KMT mayoral candidate, has rebounded in the polls. Even the DPPs Frank Hsieh, who has virtually no chance of winning the election at this point, has crept up. What will Soong do?

Vanish into obscurity, hopefully. But not very likely, alas.


Raj said...

Notice also that Soong used Shih's call to block the arms purchase bill and other items on the agenda until the the "corruption" report is out. Came rather conveniently, right after the DPP and KMT had agreed to pass the arms bill, don't you think? :)

Personally I hope the KMT give the PFP a real slap after this and tell them to behave. Then maybe the legislature can get on with passing important bills.

David said...

Hi Michael - it's been too long since I commented on TP! I'm trying to get back up to speed on Taiwan stuff, so this might be a bit off-the-wall, but here goes:

When Shih started the depose Chen thing, I suspected he might have the tacit support (and possibly active encouragement to start it) by Ma. The logic goes like this:
- up til then James Soong was leading the whole 'recall Chen' campaign, and improving his visibility / threatening to split the Blues with it. Meanwhile Ma doesn't want to commit to pushing a depose campaign himself or opposing a campaign.
- Along comes Shih to take over as figurehead for the anti-Chen movement. Soong is suddenly moved aside as a bit-part player - his public platform almost disappears. Meanwhile Ma is still distanced (a bit) from any negative fallout from the anti-Chen demos.

So IMHO Shih had the effect of undercutting Soong's public platform, while insulating Ma from negative feedback. The anti-Chen movement continues without causing such a bitter blue struggle. In other words, Shih was a godsend for Ma.

Now on to this latest news: What's the effect (on the KMT) of a bill on KMT's assets? In particular who inside the KMT would suffer most:
1) Ma and his cohorts - who are not really KMT insiders, and would probably like to shake the party up, or
2) Wang and his mates - the live-and-breathe KMT guys, with fingers in all the KMT pies (i.e. assets)?
[OK, with that phrasing of the question I'd make a good Taiwanese push-poller :)]

My point is that Ma isn't the one who loses bigtime if the KMT assets get sorted. So, maybe Shih isn't the stooge of Soong after all...

Michael Turton said...

I had thought of that interpretation, that Shih is Ma's stalking horse. But I rejected it, because Shih went after Ma from the get-go. I don't think it was cover.

Ma would suffer some serious fallout, because the KMT assets offer employment to Deep Blues who support him. Not to mention that he'd have to take the blame for losing them. I like that he has admitted that at least some party assets are ill-gotten gains, but I don't really think that he's behind the Shih thing. Soong has been at Shih's side from the beginning, addressing the crowd, whereas Ma has kept his distance. Maybe it is all for show, but that attributes the kind of finesse to the heavy-handed KMT that I just don't see them having. Shih is in the Shan Meng with Sisy Chen, who also showed up at Soong's announcement of his Taipei mayor bid. The connections back to Soong are all over this one.


STOP Ma said...

So IMHO Shih had the effect of undercutting Soong's public platform, while insulating Ma from negative feedback.

While I haven't seen a popularity poll for PandaMa in quite some time, I would have to believe that the Shih event had a decidedly negative impact upon Ma.

I saw much in the way of criticism (in the pan-blue / pan-green media) towards Ma Ying-jeou in the way he handled the whole month-long "red-ant" farce -- especially on Double-Ten day.

Anonymous said...

David, your theory is off for at least this one fact:

Ma is selling KMT assets as fast as he can in order to prevent the assets from being returned if they are found to be illegal. In contrast, former KMT chairman Lien Chan, who in every other way seems more conservative than Ma promised prior to losing the presidential election that several assets that were in courts would be returned to the government. These assets have already been sold by the Ma.