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Talk of the Day -- Round two of a top-level feud?

2014/03/22 17:03:04

President Ma Ying-jeou (right) shakes Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng's hand during a Presidential Office event Monday.

Much has been made of Friday's cancellation of a top-level meeting to seek a resolution to the student protests that are being staged in the Legislative Yuan against a services trade pact with China.

The meeting was "postponed" after Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng rejected President Ma Ying-jeou's request for a discussion at the Presidential Office of the protests and the core issue.

Some local newspapers defined it as round two of a political struggle that began last September when Ma, as chairman of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), made it clear that Wang should no longer remain in his post in light of his alleged role in an influence-peddling case.

Wang, a 73-year-old veteran lawmaker, ended up the clear winner in the first round, having kept both his party membership and his job as speaker despite Ma's efforts to dethrone him.

The following are excerpts of major local newspapers' coverage of the issues surrounding the meeting that did not materialize:

China Times:

According to the Presidential Office, when Ma called Wang late Thursday to invite him to the meeting, Wang simply said: "Sure! When?" The office then went about setting up the meeting for 11 a.m. the next day and also notified Vice President Wu Den-yih and Premier Jiang Yi-huah.

The purpose of the meeting was to try to find a way to end the student-led occupation of the Legislature, deal with the disputes over the cross-Taiwan Strait agreement and discuss the Legislature's handling of the pact.

About half an hour before the scheduled start of the meeting, Wang called Timothy Yang, secretary-general of the Presidential Office, to say he could not attend and later sent a written explanation.

President Ma called Wang twice, at 11:00 a.m. and 11:45 a.m., and KMT Secretary-General Tseng Yung-chuan also made a phone call at 11:30 a.m. but Wang could not be swayed.

Around noon, a presidential spokesperson confirmed that the meeting had been postponed and said Ma was supporting Wang's position that the Legislature would seek to resolve the issues.

Wang later issued a statement listing his reasons for declining to attend the meeting, and disclosed the information about the futile phone calls by Ma and Tseng.

With the ball now back in the legislative speaker's court in terms of handling the protests and the core issues, neither he nor the administration can afford to allow the situation to fester for much longer.

United Daily News:

The message Wang sent between the lines of his statement is that "I call the shots in the Legislative Yuan but if I'd gone to the Presidential Office, I would have had to listen to you (the president)."

Since Wang has promised publicly not to use his authority to forcefully remove the students who have occupied the Legislature since Tuesday, there is no reason for him to be given directives by Ma, or to endorse the positions of the president and the premier, who have both been criticized for trying to push the cross-strait agreement through the Legislature.

With this latest development, the feud between Ma and Wang has entered the second round. Compared with the previous round, it appears the tables have turned and it is more difficult than ever to unravel this knot.


●March 18: Wang Jin-pyng retains KMT membership (update)