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Taipei City councilors ask Ko to remain independent
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-02-22 03:33 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Trauma expert Ko Wen-je should not join the Democratic Progressive Party but run for Taipei City mayor as an independent, said city councilors from three different parties including the DPP.

The outspoken National Taiwan University Hospital doctor failed to announce a decision on his party membership before the DPP said it would consider the candidacy of five of its members.

Ko has been reluctant to join the DPP because he says it might affect his hopes of forming a wide anti-Kuomintang coalition in the November 29 election.

His views won the support Friday of three city councilors, Tung Chung-yen of the DPP, Chen Chien-ming of the Taiwan Solidarity Union and Lin Guo-cheng of the People First Party.

Asked why he advised Ko to stay away from the DPP, Tung said he wanted to reflect the opinions of the rank-and-file, who fully supported the doctor to run as an independent.

Chen said that it was not so important that Ko received all the votes of traditional DPP supporters, because as an independent he might also appeal to many previous voters for the ruling Kuomintang.

The three city councilors said that public opinion showed that only an independent Ko could break the stalemate in Taipei politics and end 16 years of KMT rule. President Ma Ying-jeou defeated the later President Chen Shui-bian in 1998 and was re-elected to a second term four years later. Hau Lung-bin, a former New Party leader who joined the KMT, was elected in 2006 and 2010.

Under the two previous mayors, public construction stalled while the gap between rich and poor widened, the councilors said.

Asked about the election by reporters, former President Lee Teng-hui did not mention a preference for Ko joining the DPP or staying outside the party, but he lamented the concentration of political power in the hands of parties. Too many politicians put the party interest above the public interest, he said.

Ko has been leading the opposition side in several surveys, and even come ahead of the likely KMT in one poll. Yet, his emphasis on a wide coalition and his reluctance to join the DPP have angered some critics. He has also upset many by describing DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang and his predecessor Tsai Ing-wen as “the two suns” of the opposition because of their likely rivalry for the nomination in the 2016 presidential election. The doctor recently said that he understood China better than most DPP leaders because he had visited the communist country 18 times.

The DPP approved the consideration of five of its members for the mayoral nomination earlier in the week. The group includes two of Ko’s fiercest critics, former Vice President Annette Lu and attorney Wellington Koo. They have been adamant that the DPP should use opinion polls to select its candidate without considering outside contenders for the time being.

Lu on Saturday criticized Tsai and former Premier Frank Hsieh for their appeals to consider Ko as a candidate. If they thought there was no talent inside the party, then they should not be running for DPP chairperson, she said. The opposition party is holding leadership elections in May, with Su and Hsieh as the main candidates, though Tsai is also widely expected to join in.

The verbal scuffles between Ko supporters and critics came as the situation on the KMT side was becoming clearer.

After months of hesitation, KMT Central Committee member Sean Lien was scheduled to announce his bid for the party’s mayoral nomination at a news conference in the older part of town Monday. Ko has accused Lien of belonging to a wealthy elite and of relying on the support of his father, KMT honorary chairman and former Vice President Lien Chan.

He will most likely still have to face at least four other contenders, including lawmakers Ting Shou-chung and Alex Tsai, in primaries to determine the final choice for KMT candidate.

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