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Kuomintang Expels Former President - 2001-09-21

Taiwan's former ruling nationalist party, the Kuomintang, has expelled former president Lee Teng-hui for supporting a splinter party.

In just 18 months, Taiwan's former president Lee Teng-hui has made a dramatic transition from unchallenged head of the Kuomintang, the party that ruled Taiwan for more than five decades, to its most visible critic.

Mr. Lee headed the KMT for 12 years, leading its successful bid to stay in office in Taiwan's first democratic presidential election in 1996.

The KMT's disciplinary committee decided to expel Mr. Lee, after he openly expressed his dissatisfaction with the Kuomintang's policy toward mainland China and threw support behind a new rival party. The former president has been critical of what he sees as the KMT's decision to abandon the policy he implemented to clearly carve out an identity for Taiwan separate from China, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan.

Lee Teng-hui is now throwing support behind the Taiwan Solidarity Union, which has drawn legislative candidates from both the KMT and ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

The KMT agonized over dismissing Mr. Lee, who presided over Taiwan's transition from authoritarian rule to democracy and remains one of Taiwan's most recognizable political figures.

Opinions vary on how Mr. Lee's expulsion will affect KMT chances in the upcoming legislative election. The Kuomintang is now the main opposition party in the legislature but opinion polls show that the December vote could change that. No political party is expected to win outright control, making it likely that a coalition will be necessary to form a working legislative majority.