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Interior chief denies plans to seek mayor's office

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) reaffirmed yesterday that he has set no sights on running for local administrative office amid growing speculation that he could be drafted by the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) as a candidate for either Kaohsiung or New Taipei mayor next year.

Recent media reports suggested the KMT had recently conducted a public opinion poll which included Lee as a possible candidate for top administrator in Kaohsiung, a traditional power base for the opposition Democratic Progressive Party.

Some reports also stated that Lee could be put forward as a KMT candidate for New Taipei in the north.

Lee attended a reception yesterday honoring outstanding mothers ahead of Mother's Day, along with President Ma Ying-jeou, who doubles as KMT chairman.

Journalists noticed warm interactions between Ma and Lee at the event.

Responding to questions from reporters, Lee said that his chief task for now is to carry out general development plans for the homeland in his role in the central government.

Running for a local administrative position has not been part of his career plan while nobody has so far approached him to sound out his intentions or willingness to serve as mayor of a special municipality in Taiwan, he said.

He noted that he grew up in New Taipei, formerly known as Taipei County, and was familiar with Kaohsiung and people in the southern metropolis too.

But he also stressed that vying for nomination by a political party and taking part in elections are not one of his fortes.

It has often been assumed that Lee would seek electoral success given he has been one of the most popular senior officials in the current Ma administration.

The speculation was recently given a new push by Lee's initiative to become a KMT member like his predecessor Jiang Yi-huah, who was appointed premier and gained his KMT membership.

Lee explained that it is normal for senior government officials to become members of the ruling party so as to ensure policy consistency, but his KMT membership bears no relationship with any electoral possibilities.

He stated recently that he “poses no threat” to any people aspiring for public office.

As for his thoughts on Ma seeking re-election as KMT chairman, Lee said that he would not make any explicit public gesture about endorsing any particular candidate for that position.

Lee graduated from the Department of Hydraulic Engineering at the National Cheng Kung University in Tainan and earned his Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Iowa of the United States.

He has served as minister of the Public Construction Commission under the Executive Yuan, deputy chief of the Taipei County Government, director of the Water Resources Department under the Taiwan Provincial Government, and a civil engineering professor at National Taiwan University.

Lee's younger brother, Lee Hung-chun, is currently a legislator representing the KMT.

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