President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) alleged endorsement of Vice Premier Jiang Yi-hua (江宜樺) as the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) candidate in the 2014 Taipei City mayoral election drew mixed reactions within the party, given that former Taipei EasyCard Corp chairman Sean Lien (連勝文) achieved higher support rates than Jiang in a recent poll.
Speculation about Jiang’s candidacy escalated after Ma publicly praised his performance when meeting with KMT members on several occasions.
Ma, who doubles as KMT chairman, yesterday declined to confirm his alleged endorsement, simply saying “thank you for caring about the issue” in response to media inquiries.
Jiang, who is not a member of the KMT, also downplayed the speculation last week, saying he had not given any thought to running in the election.
However, the speculation has sparked debate within the party about who will be the chosen candidate for the Taipei mayoral election, with some party members saying Jiang could not represent the KMT because he was not a party member.
“The KMT chairman is giving his endorsement to a non-KMT member, who is not loyal to the party, rather than supporting a party member. What kind of leadership is this?” KMT Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) said yesterday on his Facebook page.
Tsai and several other KMT politicians, including KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) and KMT Taipei City Councilor Yang Shih-chiu (楊實秋), have expressed an interest in representing the party in the election.
Lien, one of the sons of former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰), is rumored to be the KMT’s preferred candidate for the mayoral election.
In a poll released yesterday by the Chinese-language Apple Daily, 48 percent of Taipei residents said Sean Lien would win if he ran in the election, while only 15 percent said the KMT would win if Jiang were the candidate.
However, Sean Lien remained vague about his potential candidacy despite strong support in the pan-blue camp.
He has mostly maintained a low profile in political circles after being shot in the face while campaigning for a New Taipei City councilor in 2010 at a rally.
KMT Taipei City Councilor Dai Hsi-chin (戴錫欽) said strong party support for Sean Lien to represent the KMT in the mayoral election has encouraged Sean Lien, although his family is still concerned about his return to politics after he was shot.
“Mr Lien has not talked about his intentions in public because of his family and other concerns, but I think he is considering the possibility [of joining the election],” he said.
The Taipei mayoral election is considered a bellwether for the 2016 presidential elections and the mayorship has been viewed as a stepping stone for the presidency.
Ma and former presidents Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) all served as Taipei mayors before becoming president.
Ma will meet with KMT Taipei City councilors tomorrow at the Presidential Office and the issue of Taipei mayoral candidacy is likely to be on the agenda.