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Lien Chan registers candidacy for KMT chairmanship.

TAIPEI, Feb. 9 Kyodo

Lien Chan, chairman of Taiwan's major opposition Nationalist Party (KMT), registered his candidacy Friday to seek reelection in the March 24 party leadership election, while wooing other opposition forces for cooperation.

Lien, 64, earlier Friday delivered two boxes with more than 100,000 signatures from party members endorsing his candidacy to the party headquarters, by far exceeding the 28,500-signature threshold.

Party members who want to run for chairman need to win the endorsement of 3% of the party's some 950,000 members before the nomination deadline closes Thursday.

So far Lien, Taiwan's former vice president and KMT candidate in last year's presidential election, is the only one to complete the nomination procedure.

The next chairman will be the first in the party's 106-year-history to be elected by all party members through direct ballot.

Lien expressed confidence in his election prospects, hailing the direct ballot as ''the start for thorough democratization in the course of party reform.''

Lien automatically became KMT chairman in March last year when then President Lee Teng-hui stepped down as party leader to take responsibility for the KMT's humiliating defeat in the presidential election, which ended 55 years of KMT rule on the island.

An extraordinary party congress later confirmed Lien as the new party leader and adopted a reform package, including direct chairman elections to boost grassroots morale.

Lien said he hoped to use his leadership to make the KMT a party for all people and a rallying force for all like-minded political forces.

He also reiterated his readiness to let ''bygones be bygones,'' alluding to his once bitter rivalry with ex-KMT heavyweight James Soong.

Soong was expelled from the KMT for mounting an independent presidential bid. During the election campaign, the KMT sued Soong for the alleged embezzlement of party and election campaign funds, but a local court, in a highly controversial ruling last month, found Soong, now the head of the opposition People First Party (PFP), not guilty.

On Thursday, Lien announced the party will not appeal the court decision, officially burying the hatchet against his erstwhile rival in what is seen as a politically motivated move.

On Friday, Lien said he was ready ''to meet Soong whenever it is necessary, possibly even daily,'' hinting at closer cooperation between the two largest opposition forces.

Rapprochement between Lien and Soong began after the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government decided in October to scrap a KMT-backed nuclear power plant project.

Since then the opposition parties, which also include another KMT splinter, the New Party, have been rallying against the DPP minority government, but it remains to be seen whether the opposition alliance is more than just tactical and whether it will survive campaigning for the yearend general elections.

Recent opinion polls suggest the KMT, which still holds a slim parliamentary majority, will emerge from the election as only the third largest political force behind the DPP and People First.

However, with the DPP unlikely to win a parliamentary majority, Soong's party might be a sought-after partner when it comes to forming a coalition government.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Feb 12, 2001
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