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Ko to decide about DPP membership early next year
KMT's Sean Lien also close to announcement
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-12-17 03:32 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Ko Wen-je expressed satisfaction about his visit to Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Su Tseng-chang Tuesday, indicating he might decide whether or not to join the opposition party by March at the latest.

According to recent opinion polls, the National Taiwan University hospital chief traumatologist is the most popular candidate for the December 6, 2014 Taipei mayoral election, but his status as an independent has been hampering his chances.

Three prominent DPP members, former Vice President Annette Lu, lawmaker Hsu Tain-tsair and attorney Wellington Koo, have already declared their intention to run in primaries to decide on the eventual mayoral candidate. They are reportedly opposed to the party recruiting an outside candidate like Ko, while DPP leaders have said that if the doctor were recruited to run for mayor, he would not be subject to a limit barring new members from running for public office within two years of their joining.

Su and Ko talked for an hour and a half Tuesday morning, during which they reportedly reached a consensus. The doctor said he would decide whether or not to become a DPP member over the Lunar New Year in late January at the earliest but certainly not later than in March.

Only “technical” problems were left, Ko told waiting reporters after the meeting, naming his rights and duties as a party member if he joined. The physician said the conversation was “very happy” and he now fully understood the opposition leader’s opinions. “He told me that if I had any problems, I could mention them to him,” Ko told reporters.

“We belong to the same group, to the same country,” he quoted Su as saying.

Until Tuesday, exchanges with the opposition leader had gone through the media, he said, but the meeting had now left open new channels of communication. Both sides would use wisdom to solve current problems, and haste was not of the utmost importance, according to Ko.

The trauma expert said he basically agreed with the DPP method of using polls to pick a final candidate, but the precise details and conditions still had to be discussed.

Ko reportedly promised to tone down his public comments. He has sometimes annoyed DPP leaders by his colorful expressions, comparing his eventual membership of the party with a lion entering a cage and describing Su and former chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen as the “two suns of the DPP” because they both reportedly want to run for president in 2016.

Party spokesman Lin Chun-hsien told reporters that the widest consensus which had been achieved at the meeting was that victory in the election was only possible if everybody worked together.

An opinion poll released by the Chinese-language Apple Daily on Monday found Ko would receive 35.65 percent of the vote against 23.77 percent for Sean Lien, the son of former Vice President Lien Chan. The latter has not announced his candidacy yet, but he is widely expected to represent the ruling Kuomintang in the race to succeed Mayor Hau Lung-bin, who is reaching the end of his second and final term next December.

When the Apple Daily asked the 1,101 respondents whom they wanted to see as the opposition candidate, 39.03 percent picked Ko, 15.54 percent chose Lu, 8.04 percent Koo and 4.75 percent Hsu.

In an interview published by the Chinese-language United Evening News Tuesday, Lien said he would not delay an announcement about a bid for much longer. He described polls putting Ko ahead of him as a warning bell and as a form of encouragement.

Lien told the newspaper he still needed to clarify a couple of things but had arrived at the final stage of his evaluation whether or not to run for mayor. He hinted that his wife might be opposing his bid out of concern for his health.

Lien rebutted reports that the KMT leadership was pressuring him to take a decision, saying Hau had only announced a bid in April 2006.

He also discussed the shooting by a gunman at an election campaign event in 2010. A man shot him in the face at close range, in the process also killing a bystander. The suspect, who said he had mistaken Lien for a local politician, was sentenced to life in prison.

Lien said he belonged to those who would want to change politics because he had suffered from such an incident, while his wife belonged to those who want to run as far away from politics as possible.

Ironically, the doctor in charge of his treatment after the shooting was his potential opponent in the 2014 election, Ko Wen-je.

Within the KMT, several lawmakers and Taipei city councilors have indicated their interest in running for mayor, resulting in the possibility of primary elections. Lien has also been at odds with the national party leadership, leading to reports that President Ma Ying-jeou might prefer Premier Jiang Yi-hua as a mayoral contender.

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