As everyone knows by now, former Taipei Mayor, Minister of Justice, and KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou has gone from being just an ordinary jeou to being the candidate of the KMT for the Presidency of Taiwan.

Ma now faces the problem of what to do with two important rivals, Wang Jin-pyng, the current legislative speaker of the KMT and once a long-shot Presidential candidate, and James Soong, the Chairman of the junior People First Party (PFP). Recent news articles have described Ma’s attempts to open negotiations with Wang:

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said he will meet with Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) by next week in an effort to seek Wang’s cooperation as soon as possible.

“I was nominated by the party as the presidential candidate. The Ma-Wang meeting should not be delayed any longer,” Ma said yesterday in an interview with TVBS.

Pledging to meet with Wang by next week, Ma said he would like to carry out his promise to invite Wang to be his running mate, and sort out the issue as soon as possible.

“I think the [Ma-Wang ticket] issue is not what people care about the most. I hope to visit Speaker Wang as soon as possible,” he said.

Ma has repeatedly stated that he wants Wang to be his Veep, but Wang bears Ma a deep grudge dating back to the Chairmanship election in 2005. Readers may recall that Wang is close to Honorary Chairman Lien Chan, who blasted Ma in the Chairmanship election. Ma then went on to defeat Wang handily after accusing him of vote buying. Veteran Taiwan watcher Lawrence Eyton described Ma’s victory thusly:

Ma was widely touted by the media as the favorite, but he was certainly a very odd favorite. When the vote took place, three quarters of the party’s legislators, many high-level party officials such as central executive committee head Chang Che-shen and more than 100 retired generals - the KMT is traditionally strong in the military - had thrown their support behind Wang.

What does Wang want? He wouldn’t take a vice-chairmanship position before — which he must be kicking himself about, because if he had been vice chairman when Ma was indicted, he might well have become Chairman. Instead Wu Po-hsiung, a Ma supporter, is the KMT Chair. What does Wang want? Who can tell? And if Wang won’t run with Ma, who will Ma pick? I’d pick a femme, but you never know what might happen.

Meanwhile James Soong is back from brooding in America and is now assessing his position. The KMT and the PFP are negotiating over what districts each party will field candidates in (see A-gu for current count). One very powerful piece of leverage available to the PFP is James Soong running for President on a PFP ballot, splitting the Blue vote again. In the December 2006 mayoral election in Taipei Soong garnered just 9% of the vote, an indication that his popularity is on the wane in the heavily Blue and mainlander city. Yet Soong is widely popular around the island. His stint as Provincial Governor enabled him to visit every town in Taiwan, and he learned Taiwanese so as to better connect with the voters. He is a canny politician with a strong populist touch and a “make the trains run on time” reputation. In an election almost certain to be decided by under 5% of the vote, and probably less than 3%, the presence of Soong could have a powerful, negative impact on the Blues. That gives him tremendous leverage in negotiations over the status of the PFP.

Lotsa fun looking ahead to the 2008 Presidential race.