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KMT chairman post for Ma sign of closer ties

Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou was elected chairman of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) Sunday, a positon that analysts said would help him push further for warmer cross-Straits ties.

Running uncontested, Ma won 92.5 percent of about 300,000 votes cast, the party announced. But turnout was low at 58 percent, it said.

KMT chairman post for Ma sign of closer ties

Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou casts his ballot at a polling station during the KMT chairman election in Taipei July 26, 2009. [Agencies]

Ma will replace incumbent Wu Poh-hsiung and is due to take the reins of the party in September.

With control of both the party and the government, it would be easier for Ma to get KMT "lawmakers" to endorse his engagement policies with the mainland while seeking public consensus about cross-Straits rapprochement, analysts said.

"I believe he will have more room to develop cross-Straits relations after chairing the party," Lin Shou-shan, a senior KMT member, told China Daily.

Ma was elected Taiwan leader in May 2008 and has adopted a positive mainland policy, signing key trade and transport agreements.

But his cross-Straits policy has been strongly criticized by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Taiwan`s biggest opposition party.

Beijing has maintained close ties with the KMT since 2005, after a landmark meeting between Hu Jintao, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, and the then KMT chief Lien Chan in Beijing. Hu has also met Wu, the current KMT chairman.

Soon after the election results were announced, Ma said he would try to bring peace across the Taiwan Straits for "at least dozens of years". Experts said Ma saw the election as an opportunity to preach the KMT policy among the general public, and also lay the groundwork for the 2012 "presidential elections", which he wants to contest again.

KMT chairman post for Ma sign of closer ties

Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou talks to journalists during a news conference after the KMT chairman election in Taipei July 26, 2009. [Agencies]

Ma`s campaign was in the spotlight since it may result in a historic meeting between him and CPC chief Hu in their capacities as heads of the two ruling parties.

Ma had earlier ruled out such a meeting "for now", saying the Taiwan people are divided over the issue.

But a survey by Taipei-based Global Views Monthly last week showed that a majority of Taiwan residents want Ma to meet with Hu, believing a meeting could further ease cross-Straits tension.

According to the telephone poll of 1,005 people, 58 percent thought it was necessary for Ma and Hu to meet.

Meanwhile, 64 percent thought the opposition DPP should communicate directly with the CPC.

Kao Hsi-chun, a Taiwan media commentator, said the survey demonstrated that both the KMT and DPP had underestimated Taiwan people`s willingness for stronger cross-Straits ties.

"Given the mainland`s emergence as an economic power and Taiwan`s economic woes, most Taiwan people want to reduce hostility and seize every opportunity to develop ties," he said.

Li Jiaquan, a senior researcher with the Institute of Taiwan Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said he thinks a meeting between Hu and Ma might materialize after 2012 if Ma wins a second term.

"By then, Ma would be relieved from the pressure of re-election and so it would provide a good opportunity for a Hu-Ma meeting," he told China Daily.

"Cross-straits issues, such as the signing of a peace treaty, could also be addressed at the meeting."

Agencies contributed to the story

Date:2009-7-27 7:00:00     
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