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James Soong returns to center stage

James Soong is back, and with a vengeance.

What he sees, rightly or not, is an island where “the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” He feels compelled to right the wrong.

The 69-year-old founder of the People First Party, relegated to the sidelines and slighted by many of his political allies and foes alike as an over-the-hill political figure, is showing that he can make waves once again and he is somebody to be reckoned with.

And he is. He is feared or wooed either as a giant killer or a king maker in a crucial election less than two months away.

Since his jaw-dropping announcement in July of his candidacy for the 2012 presidential election, which was widely regarded as a two-way race between the island's pan-blue bloc of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) and the pan-green camp of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Soong has been derided, vilified, and pilloried by many of the blue camp's chattering class for throwing a monkey wrench into the race that could tip the precarious balance and effectively doom President Ma Ying-jeou's bid for re-election.

The condemnation is justified because Soong belongs to the pan-blue side. In fact, he was the running mate of KMT Chairman Lien Chan in the 2004 election. The Lien-Soong ticket symbolized an ephemeral solidarity of the blue camp which could have won the election had not been for two mysterious bullets that wounded rival Chen Shui-bian on election-eve. Since then, both Lien and Soong have faded out sight.

In the 2008 presidential election, the KMT's Ma Ying-jeou was swept to the presidency by an electorate disgusted with Chen Shui-bian's corruption and his misguided cross-strait policy that had marginalized Taiwan both economically and globally. Ma Ying-jeou won 58 percent of the popular vote, beating the DPP's Frank Hsieh by the largest margin since the first direct presidential election was held in 1996.

But Ma has squandered his mandate by slighting his supporters gratuitously and pleasing his opponents in an effort to become a “president for all.” He believes that by being a nice guy, by being squeaky-clean and by being a leader who is willing to give his political foes “the other cheek” to slap and to spit on would be enough to win their hearts and minds, and thus their votes in the end. But what he has gotten in return is their contempt and the cheapening of the presidency, to the dismay and resentment of his own supporters.

The result of Ma's effort at winning over those who did not vote for him in 2008 was evident in the local election last December when the DPP garnered more overall votes than the KMT-an ominous sign and warning light for the KMT because the battle was actually a warm-up for the war in 2012. But, that sign was blithely ignored by Ma.

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