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September 26, 2017

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Deals between parties hatched for speakership

The keenly contested race for the speakership of the next Legislature is not only a race for the symbolic control of parliament, but also a test to the complex cooperation possibilities among the political forces that could determine the outcome of the 2004 presidential election, observers said.

Hsu Jung-shu yesterday became the first woman legislator from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party to formally announce her bid for the vice speakership, engaging in an intra-party race with at least three male lawmakers seeking the same post.

Making her announcement at a press conference she was accompanied by Trong Chai, another DPP lawmaker, who has shown strong interest in standing.

But they remained uncommitted on the possibility of running as partners, with Chai pointing out that the speaker and vice speaker posts are up for grabs in separate votes.

Chai stands only a slim chance in the race to be held shortly after the new Legislature opens on Feb. 1.

He has a strong rival, namely, incumbent Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, who is indeed at the center of almost all the cooperation plots the ruling and the opposition parties have hatched.

Both the DPP and the opposition were hoping to name a vice speaker candidate to pair with the Kuomintang speaker, who is known for his congeniality.

Although Wang stands a good chance of being reelected, he will find himself in a tricky situation whichever side he leans towards, observers said.

If he cooperates with the DPP, the KMT and the People First Party — fearing they might lose control over the Legislature to the ruling party — would certainly field another pair of contestants.

Even if he stood by his own party, pairing with a vice speaker candidate probably from the PFP, his victory would still not be a certainty.

The KMT and PFP should form the majority force in the next legislature, but observers say dissenters from the former ruling party might not tow the party line in supporting the pair.

According to rumors, the KMT was ready to announce on Thursday a partnership with the PFP, with Wang running for reelection, but neither Wang nor the PFP showed any enthusiasm for the plan, and so it was scrapped.

But the rise in the possibility of a KMT-deal has alarmed the DPP.

President Chen Shui-bian, who has been tight-lipped over the race, is reportedly considering fielding the DPP's own pair of hopefuls, should the KMT-PFP pact become a reality.

Chen reportedly, was angered by the opposition's attempt to dominate the Legislature at the risk of escalating inter-party conflicts.

A showdown between the DPP and the Taiwan Solidarity Union on one side, and the KMT and PFP on the other will be a close game.

In the new 225-seat Legislature, the DPP will hold 87 seats, and with the support of 14 lawmakers from its close ally the TSU, their closely-knit side should have 101 votes at their disposal, only 12 short of a majority.

Observers have suggested that two more independent lawmakers will side with the DPP, leaving the party needing only 10 more votes.

As the speaker and vice speaker posts are given the right to vote separately, the DPP will be more likely to win over KMT defectors for the less significant of the two positions.

The DPP knows its shortcomings, and therefore has been trying to cut a deal with the opposition for the vice speakership to avoid a showdown.

Chen has been trying to recruit opposition politicians into an alliance to fuse the so-called "Pan Blue Troops" co-led by the KMT and PFP, with the "Pan Green Troops" headed by the ruling party.

The prospect of two polarized camps confronting each other may not only destabilize the island, but also knit the KMT and PFP into a strong camp threatening Chen's reelection as president.

Chen narrowly won the 2000 presidential election, thanks to infighting among the "Pan Blue Troops," and the upcoming legislative leadership race will be an indicator of how well the KMT and PFP can work together, observers said.

KMT Secretary-General Lin Fong-cheng yesterday said it was "natural" for the opposition to join forces, and the speaker and vice speaker posts would "certainly come in a single deal."

But he revealed that the KMT was still waiting for a response from the PFP.

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