The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) announced yesterday it would begin its presidential candidate selection process in March, but KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), the party's most likely presidential candidate, expressed surprise at the pressing schedule.
Ma said there was insufficient time to begin the process less than two months from now.
"I thought the primary would be held in June, so I was surprised to learn that it begins in March. The schedule is indeed a little too rushed for those who are considering joining," Ma said while talking to reporters at KMT headquarters.
The KMT is scheduled to formally announce the presidential primary with a bulletin on March 1, and allow hopefuls to claim primary application forms from March 3 to March 5. The party will accept registrations until March 12, conduct a public poll from April 8 to April 12 and hold a party member vote on April 15.
The KMT's presidential candidate will be announced on April 15, when the results of the public poll and member vote are released, with the poll accounting for 70 percent of the final total and voting making up the other 30 percent.
With the primary registration set to be completed before March 12, any potential hopefuls would need to declare their intentions soon after the Lunar New Year holiday.
Asked to explain setting such a tight schedule, one that leaves little room for negotiation, the KMT's Organization and Development Committee Director Liao Fung-te (廖風德) said the schedule was compiled according to last year's primary timeline.
"Besides, those who want to be the KMT's presidential candidate should already be preparing for the election. They won't be waiting until we post the bulletin," he said.
Ma said he that he had not made any preparations.
"I didn't realize until last Saturday, when I was informed about the timeline, that with such time pressure it's time to seriously think about it," Ma said, who is still reluctant to declare his intention to run in the primary.
If Ma decides to join the primary, he will need to step down from his position as party chairman temporarily until April 15, the party said.
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), another likely to run, yesterday also expressed disapproval of the plans.
"Given the current situation, making a rash decision to advance the schedule of the presidential primary will only compound problems," Wang said when asked by reporters for comment.
He was referring to the yet-to-be-finalized redistribution plan for the seventh legislative election, in addition to the uncertainty about whether to combine the presidential and legislative elections.
Politicians across party lines have proposed a "two-in-one election," meaning that this December's legislative elections and next year's presidential election would be held at the same time.
Meanwhile, in preparation for the legislative election, in which the new "single-district, two votes" system will be adopted, a call has been made for the KMT to discuss cooperation with the People First Party when nominating legislative candidates.
"If we decide the presidential candidate first and the nomination of legislative candidates remains uncertain, the problem of coordinating legislative candidates will become even more difficult," said Wang, who has declined to reveal whether he will run in the party primary.
Ma will meet Wang this morning to discuss the primary schedule.
Meanwhile, Huang Kuang-kuo (黃光國), a professor at National Taiwan University's department of psychology who had declared his intention to run in the primary, yesterday accused the party of purposely thwarting him in nullifying his candidacy.
In response, Ma denied that the party had hindered Huang's bid with its so-called "four month regulation," which requires candidates to hold party membership for at least four months before they can run as a candidate for a public post. Ma said the clause would not be altered for any individual.
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