08/22/2005, 00.00
TAIWAN
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A new leader for Kuomintang is installed

Ma Ying-jeou has taken power in Taiwan's largest opposition party and he has invited all to collaborate in view of the presidential election in 2008. In a message, Beijing invited him to "firmly oppose independence and to work together for peace".

Taipei (AsiaNews/SCMP) – Ma Ying-jeou, new president of Kuomintang (KMT, the largest opposition party in Taiwan) and mayor of Taipei, has officially taken over leadership of the party in a ceremony in the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall on 19 August. During his inaugural speech, Ma, 55 years and born in Hong Kong, promised to usher in "true internal reforms in the party", to bring "new blood" among the KMT delegates and to promote democracy within leadership proceedings so as to lead Kuomintang to victory in the 2008 presidential election.

Ma won the election for the leadership on 17 July garnering 72.4% of the votes. His rival for the KMT leadership race was 64-year-old Wang Jin-pyng, current president of the Taiwan House of Parliament. The mayor of the capital took the place of Lien Chen, 69 years, who became honorary party president and head of the KMT National Policy Foundation think-tank. In his speech, Ma thanked Lien for his contribution to Taiwan politics in the last five years, especially for having introduced direct elections for party leader and for his historic visit to mainland China last April. "Mr Lien's landmark trip to the mainland has not only helped ease cross-strait relations but has changed the nature of cross-strait relations," he said. "In that, I think the KMT's return to power is no longer a remote goal."

Many analysts say the compliments and invitations to cooperate made by Ma to Lien and the defeated Wang are a necessity for the new leader. Reconciliation with Wang – who has strong contacts with Taiwan's political and industrial world – is a political obligation for Ma if he intends to keep the KMT intact and ready to contest the 2008 presidential election. Without the backing of his competitor, the man also risks losing the so-called "pan-blue" that is, the island's two minority parties, the People First Party and the New Party, which had ranged themselves on Wang's side, who has already twice refused to take up the post of vice-president of the party.

For the inauguration ceremony, the Chinese communist party sent a message to Ma, inviting both sides of the Strait "to collaborate and to firmly oppose Taiwan independence" [one of the primary objectives of the Democratic Party in power and of President Chen Shuibian – ed.note] and "to bring peace". Previously, Ma has outlined his position on links with China in an interview with a Taipei daily on 7 August. Ma said that "reunification [is] possible only with a true democracy and if there is an admission and rehabilitation of the student movement and the successive massacre in Tiananmen Square".

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