KMT veteran announces bid for 2020 Taiwan presidency

Mr Eric Chu (in white T-shirt) stepped down on Christmas Day as New Taipei City mayor after serving the maximum two terms. He is currently the most popular leader of the pan-Blue opposition camp, led by the KMT.
Mr Eric Chu (in white T-shirt) stepped down on Christmas Day as New Taipei City mayor after serving the maximum two terms. He is currently the most popular leader of the pan-Blue opposition camp, led by the KMT.PHOTO: REUTERS

Eric Chu's China-friendly party riding high amid backlash against current Tsai govt

Taiwanese opposition heavyweight Eric Chu has announced that he will contest the 2020 presidential election, becoming the first big-name politician to throw his hat in the ring.

The Kuomintang (KMT) veteran, who lost the 2016 election to President Tsai Ing-wen, stepped down on Tuesday as New Taipei City mayor after serving the maximum two terms and immediately announced he would contest the presidency, reported Central News Agency.

Mr Chu said he will begin his campaign with a tour of Taiwan to "better understand public opinion and to seek solutions to Taiwan's problems".

The 57-year-old has also served as Taiwan's vice-premier and KMT chairman and is currently the most popular leader of the pan-Blue opposition camp, led by the KMT, according to the agency.

While he lost the 2016 poll to Ms Tsai by a landslide, the latter's administration is languishing in public opinion due to perceived economic failures and botched pension and labour reforms.

Mr Chu's China-friendly KMT, meanwhile, is riding high on the anti-Tsai backlash. It trounced Ms Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in municipal elections last month, forcing her to resign as the DPP chief and putting her re-election bid in doubt.

Mr Chu's bid also comes amid scrutiny of the Tsai administration's management of cross-strait relations - a critical issue for Taiwan presidential candidates. Recent opinion polls indicate that most Taiwanese do not approve of the DPP's cross-strait policies while supporting the so-called "1992 Consensus" with China.

The consensus refers to a tacit understanding reached between the then KMT government and Beijing in 1992 that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge there is "one China", with each side having its own interpretation of what "China" means.

Mr Chu has said he sees the 1992 Consensus as a legitimate basis for cross-strait relations. This would ensure that he gets the tacit endorsement of Beijing, whose actions in the past had an impact on Taiwan's presidential race.

But Mr Chu would first have to fend off other KMT presidential hopefuls, who are likely to include KMT chairman Wu Den-yih and former parliamentary speaker Wang Jin-pyng, for the party's nomination.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2018, with the headline 'KMT veteran announces bid for 2020 Taiwan presidency'. Print Edition | Subscribe