With all three of Taiwan’s directly elected presidents having first served as Taipei mayor, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), whose second term in office ends in 2014, is seen as a possible successor to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
Despite never having voiced an interest in running in 2016, Hau’s political maneuverings over the past few years have spoken volumes, in particular his apparent approaches to former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman and vice president Lien Chan (連戰), according to analysts.
In 2008, during his first term as mayor, Hau gave his full backing to the appointment of Sean Lien (連勝文), one of Lien Chan’s sons, as chairman of EasyCard Corp, whose biggest shareholder is the Taipei City Government.
The move was generally described by Taipei City councilors from both the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) at the time as a case of “political quid pro quo,” because Sean Lien had allegedly helped Hau cultivate friends in high places in the KMT hierarchy.
The relationship between the two men was also evident when Hau won re-election in 2010, easily defeating former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) of the DPP.
Hau said he could not have won without the assistance of Sean Lien, who was shot by a gunman at a campaign rally on the eve of the mayoral election. That statement has since been interpreted as paving the way for Sean Lien to run for Taipei mayor at a future date.
According to a KMT member who has served multiple terms as a Taipei City councilor, the reasons Hau has tried to cosy up to the Lien family are clear, but such efforts could also pose problems for Hau given how much the Ma camp has worked to undermine the long standing political influence of Lien Chan.
In other words, although a good relationship with the Lien family could be an important bargaining chip for Hau in the race to be the KMT’s next presidential candidate, it could also widen the gap between him and the Ma camp, the party member said.
Hau would also stand less of a chance of becoming the party’s presidential candidate in the post-Ma era if he fails to secure an -important position after his mayoral term ends in 2014, which could leave a year long period in the “political wilderness” before the 2016 race, analysts have said.
KMT Taipei City Councilor Yang Shih-chiu (楊實秋) has publicly said that since Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) is currently Ma’s heir-apparent, other hopefuls would have a better chance of securing the vice-presidential spot.
Taipei City Councilor Chen Chien-ming (陳建銘) of the Taiwan Solidarity Union said he had advised Hau to step up his efforts as Taipei mayor, especially in the wake of the establishment of the new special municipalities in 2010, or he might not even be offered a Cabinet position after his second term ends.
“Having served as the mayor of Taiwan’s capital for eight years, I think I should be the one to form a Cabinet instead of being named to one,” Chen quoted Hau as saying, as an indication of his political ambition.
However, when compared with New Taipei City (新北市) Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫), who has also been tipped by analysts as a possible KMT presidential candidate, Hau could find himself at a disadvantage.
During his tenure as New Taipei City mayor, Chu recruited former National Police Agency director-general Hou You-yi (侯友宜) and former Water Resources Agency director Chen Shen-hsien (陳伸賢) — both officials from the former DPP administration — as the city’s deputy mayor and secretary--general respectively, a New Taipei City councilor said, implying that Chu’s political vision transcended party lines.