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Former President Lee dismisses speculation he supported DPP in 2000 race

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Former President Lee Teng-hui yesterday dismissed speculation he had plotted against the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) to allow the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to win the 2000 presidential election.

Lee, giving a speech on Taiwan's democratic development, said that the KMT split because James Soong, now chairman of the People First Party, was bent on mounting an independent bid in 2000.

Chen Shui-bian from the DPP was elected president in 2000, narrowly beating Soong, who was then a rising star within the KMT having won a landslide in the first-ever election for Taiwan's provincial governor post in 1994.

Lien Chan, who represented the KMT in 2000 race, finished a distant third.

Lee, 90, said he offered Soong the premier post in return for his promise to quit the presidential poll, but he refused.

“Everyone at the time thought I was helping the DPP. Actually they were wrong,” said Lee.

He said he intended to let Lien, who was at the time vice president, represent the KMT in the presidential poll, but actually Soong was much more influential in Taiwan because he had been the provincial governor.

Lee noted that the DPP victory marked the first transition of power in Taiwan, a peaceful one that set a paradigm for democratic development in Asia.

Lee became the first-ever popularly elected president in Taiwan in 1996. He retired in 2000, and later left the KMT after party supporters accused him of secretly backing the DPP in the presidential poll.

He then had his followers form the Taiwan Solidarity Union.

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