How will one ticket accommodate the competing egos of Soong—who heads the People First Party—and Lien? Early indications are that Lien would be the presidential candidate, and Soong his running mate. "I don't mind what my position will be," says Soong. Some analysts see this as a wise display of pragmatism from a former governor whose popular support isn't what it used to be. "Soong is a political realist," says National Taiwan University political scientist Lu Ya-li. "He knows that the PFP isn't ready to rival the KMT."
This partnership portends a stiff challenge to Chen come 2004. His DPP has never polled more than half the votes in a national election, and his term has been marked by an anemic economy, record unemployment, and an ineffectual legislature. Still, he has solid support in certain quarters, especially the south. What's more, Lien is an uninspiring campaigner and neither opposition party has yet articulated a compelling vision for Taiwan. Soong, of course, could still break off his engagement to Lien. But for now, the man who'd like to be king has once again positioned himself to play kingmaker.