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May 29, 2017

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Lien Chan bids farewell to KMT chairmanship as Ma takes over

Lien Chan yesterday bid farewell to the Kuomintang chairmanship and also his long political career that would be remembered for his defeats in two presidential bids and his last bold trip across the strait.

His successor, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, omitted the defeats in his first speech delivered to the party congress, in which he summed up Lien's contribution to the nation and party.

Ma hailed Lien for making a landmark "journey of peace" to China, for introducing direct elections for the party chairman, and for trying to clean the party's moneyed politics and its ill-gotten assets.

The past five years have been turbulent for both Lien and the KMT.

Soon after his humiliating defeat in the 2000 presidential race, in which ended a distant third, he had to pull himself together and assume the KMT leadership relinquished by former President Lee Teng-hui.

The party was falling part. Many from its ranks defected to the People First Party formed by James Soong, who had walked out the party to mount an independent presidential bid and had lost to President Chen Shui-bian by just a narrow margin.

Some other KMT members chose to follow Lee, when he later quit the party he had ruled for 12 years.

Lien mounted a second presidential bid in 2000, this time with the PFP chair as his running mate.

The partnership was the result of a compromise inside what has come to called the "pan blue" camp, which realized that their only chance to unseat Chen was to consolidate.

They almost made it. But a pre-election shooting that injured Chen, it is generally believed, cost Lien his second campaign.

Having lost twice, there seemed to be little left for Lien to do, and he was expected to bow out soon.

His trip across the strait earlier this year was greeted with mixed reactions. The KMT's ties with the communists may have improved, but the tensions between Taipei and Beijing have not.

His attempts to introduce reforms to the party have been left mostly unfinished.

In his farewell speech, Lien praised Ma as young and savvy and urged him help the party wrest back power.

Lien also urged Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, who was defeated by Ma in the chairmanship election, to keep on helping Ma lead the party.

Lien's five turbulent years as chairman has come to a close, but a tough road still lies ahead for the KMT, whose future now depends on Ma and Wang.

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