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Last Updated: Friday, 19 August 2005, 09:51 GMT 10:51 UK
Taiwan opposition leader sworn in
Ma Ying-jeou, right, and outgoing chairman Lien Chan, 19 Aug
Ma Ying-jeou (R) is talking over from Lien Chan (L)
Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou has been sworn in as chairman of Taiwan's opposition Kuomintang (KMT) Party.

Mr Ma was inaugurated at the party's annual congress, where he formally took over from outgoing leader Lien Chan.

Party members hope Mr Ma's appointment will improve the KMT's fortunes, and improve relations with Beijing.

Mr Ma won the chairmanship race last month, beating parliamentary Speaker Wang Jin-pyng in the first leadership contest in the KMT's 110-year history.

In a televised speech on Friday, the new leader praised Mr Lien for his historic visit to the Chinese mainland in April, and pledged to continue efforts to build cross-strait ties.

"I will do my best to carry on and push for Lien Chan's policies," Mr Ma said. "My mission is to press ahead with the reforms."

One of these reforms is that of the KMT itself, and Mr Ma pledged to fight internal corruption and recruit new, younger members.

He also promised to push for direct transport links to the mainland - a move the ruling Democratic Progressive Party has so far rejected.

Ma Ying-jeou waves the Kuomintang party (KMT) flag
KMT supporters hope Ma Ying-jeou will invigorate the party
Mr Ma said such links would help turn the island into a regional business hub.

Mr Ma is almost certain to lead the KMT into the 2008 presidential elections, where he will run against the yet undetermined successor to President Chen Shui-bian, who cannot seek a third term in office.

The KMT once ruled Taiwan with an iron fist, but it is now trying to boost its image after two presidential election losses and damaging splits.

Mr Ma, who was educated in Harvard, once served as minister of justice and still retains a reputation for being incorruptible.

Although he is believed to favour eventual unification with mainland China, Mr Ma has strongly criticised China's lack of democracy and its human rights record.

His public image - as someone who is honest, clean cut, competent and reformist - has made him especially popular with young female voters.

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