Any Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) aspirant looking to represent the party in the 2016 presidential election will readily acknowledge that New Taipei City (新北市) Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) is a force to be reckoned with.
However, the road ahead for Chu will not be smooth, political watchers say, and unless he is willing to bet everything, he would have a hard time making it to the top of the party’s list.
Party sources say that Chu’s greatest enemy within the KMT is Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), and the situation is not looking good for Chu, first because Wu already has a head start to succeed President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), and second, because Wu already has one of his top men — Lin Join-sane (林中森) — in a key post as the KMT secretary-general.
Chu has fallen behind Wu, a KMT member with party administration background said, but if Chu could maintain a good relationship with Ma, who is the party chairman, and persuade Ma to take a neutral position, Chu would still have a chance.
However, some pan-blue lawmakers question how much this would help Chu’s case, adding that if Chu came to be seen within the party as “the savior of the KMT,” that would be stepping on the red line Ma has drawn around his authority.
If this leads to Ma’s camp taking any action against Chu, it would prove to be the greatest obstacle to Chu’s rise, the KMT lawmakers said.
Despite the concern that Ma would favor Wu over Chu and that Wu has already inserted himself into the best position, political commentators said the key to obtaining a position of power within a party is to have the power to back one’s claims.
Wu’s lack of popularity within the party has always been regarded as one of his weak points, while this has always been Chu’s forte, political observers said.
One pan-blue local representative who wishes to remain anonymous cited as an example how Chu, during the election campaign, always took time out to ask KMT candidates how they were doing, and the candidates were impressed with Chu’s interpersonal skills.
Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓), director of the KMT’s Organizational Development Committee, said people should not focus on who would succeed Ma.
Su served as the head of Taoyuan County’s environmental bureau when Chu was the county commissioner and is commonly viewed as a Chu supporter.
“If we don’t unify the party and help raise the party’s popular support, anyone chosen to represent the party would have a hard time [winning in the 2016 election],” Su said.
KMT Central Standing Committee member Lee Te-wei (李德維) said Chu should focus on his duties as New Taipei City mayor and be the party’s vanguard in that city.
Some KMT members said that this jockeying for position is raising an atmosphere of disquiet within the party, as most of those who have set their sights on the 2016 election feel that their toughest competition would come from within the party — rather than the opposition.
They are only waiting for the right time to bite, KMT sources said, pointing to Chu’s alleged comments about party members, as revealed by WikiLeaks.
In US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks late last year, Chu allegedly talked about the KMT’s internal affairs and other politicians during several meetings with then-American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) director Steven Young in 2008 and 2009, saying People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) was “in his political grave” and Ma hoped the KMT’s “old guards,” such as Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and honorary chairmen Lien Chan (連戰) and Wu Po-hsiung (吳伯雄) would “ease out.”