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Taiwan's opposition KMT votes to elect new chief
Updated: 2005-07-16 09:00

TAIPEI - Taiwan opposition party members voted Saturday to elect a new leader, with hopes high the successful challenger will reinvigorate the party after its last two election defeats and return it to power.

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou
After a tight campaign race, as many as one million Kuomintang (KMT) members will choose between Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou and "parliamentary speaker" Wang Jin-pyng in the first contested leadership race in the party's 111-year history.

Voters were already lined up at some of the 680 polling booths across the island as they opened at 8:00 am. They were also to vote, before polls close at 4:00 pm, for 985 party delegates from 1,356 candidates.

Ma and Wang are both running on a platform of fighting corruption, pushing for democratic reforms and promoting harmony between the Kuomintang's factions.

They have also vowed to safeguard Taiwan's sovereignty, but have rejected "President" Chen Shui-bian's Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) push towards independence.

Observers say the two carry equal weight and that although the charismatic and handsome Ma is leading in opinion polls, turnout will decide whether he can beat 64-year-old Wang, credited with strong ties in the party's grassroots.
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