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Taiwan's Largest Opposition Party Expels 11 Members

Taiwan's main opposition party, KMT, stripped the 11 politicians of their party membership for declaring they will run in this year's legislative polls under a new, rival political party. But the KMT's disciplinary committee did not recommend any action against its former chairman, Lee Teng-hui, who also took part in Sunday's rally for the rival group.

Former President Lee addressed the Taiwan Solidarity Union convention Sunday, saying what he called "pernicious partisan politics" is the biggest obstacle facing Taiwan's continued democratic development. Mr. Lee quit as KMT chairman after a party split led it to lose last year's presidential election.

With legislative elections drawing closer, the KMT is faced with the dilemma of whether it can continue to ignore the actions of its former chairman. A move to expel Mr. Lee could run the risk of alienating his supporters and could project party division before Taiwanese voters.

Despite losing the presidency and control over the executive branch of government, the KMT maintained a majority in Taiwan's legislature that has allowed it to block key legislative initiatives from President Chen Shui-bian. Public opinion polls indicate the KMT may not be able keep its majority after the polls.

The KMT dominated Taiwan politics for more than 50 years, since Chinese Nationalist forces fled China in 1949 and established a separate government in the island. But in recent years, the party has suffered defections leading to the creation of two smaller political parties.

The Taiwan Solidarity Union is latest faction to emerge out of the KMT. This party will field 39 candidates in the legislative contest, 19 of whom are former KMT members.