There have been reports that Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) might attempt to run in the 2020 presidential election.
However, Ko’s mother said in an interview that the Ko family is not ungrateful and that Premier William Lai (賴清德), who she said is an outstanding person, might run in the election.
Her comments should be revised, as Ko and Lai are both unlikely to be the next president — Ko because he will not be able to run, and Lai because he would not.
If Lai replaced President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) as the Democratic Progressive Party’s candidate in the election, loyal Tsai supporters would certainly plant the seeds of opposition and stand in the way of Lai’s political career.
Lai is clearly aware of this potential scenario, so even if he wants to be president, there is no need for him to be in a rush and run in 2020. There will be plenty of other opportunities, and that is why he would not run in 2020.
Ko, on the other hand, will not run in 2020 because he will not be able to. Ko will have problems passing even the first stage of the process, the gathering of signatures in support of a presidential bid.
Without nationwide support and a strong political ideology, it would be difficult to collect enough signatures. Just because someone might be willing to vote for Ko does not mean that they would be willing to participate in a signature drive to support his candidacy, because voting and putting your name on a signature drive are two separate issues, and the latter requires a lot of labor and money. Even if Ko managed to gather enough signatures, he would be unlikely to win the election.
Taiwanese politics differ from those of other advanced nations: It is mainly under the sway of ideology and personal relationships, and ordinary people have no chance of breaking the DPP’s and the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) control.
Since Taiwan’s democratization, only People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) has succeeded in doing so. Had it not been for the Chung Hsing Bills Finance scandal, Soong would have become president in 2000. What made Soong capable of breaking through was the cult of personality cultivated by the pro-unification camp.
Soong was in high spirits during the 2000 presidential election, but the air went out of his sails following the election because his cult status disappeared.
There were two reasons for this:
First, when Soong and former vice president Lien Chan (連戰) visited China in an attempt to gain Beijing’s support after the election, they were treated differently — China had already decided to throw its weight behind Lien.
Second, by running as vice president to Lien on the 2004 presidential ticket, Soong lost the remainder of his cult status within the pro-unification camp.
A cult of personality is borne of a strong political ideology, and therefore it is only the spiritual leaders of the pro-unification or pro-independence camp who could succeed at attaining it.
The main reason that Ko won the Taipei mayoral election was that he received most of the pan-green camp’s votes, in addition to benefiting from the disintegration of the KMT and the discord between then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and the Lien family.
In other words, Ko did not win because he was considered the spiritual leader of either group, and nor will he be recognized as such in 2020. It is obvious that Ko will not be able to break up the DPP’s and the KMT’s control of the political state and run in the presidential election.
Chen Mao-hsiung is a retired National Sun Yat-sen University professor and chairman of the Society for the Promotion of Taiwanese Security.
Translated by Chang Ho-ming
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