While Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) appears to be the party’s sole potential presidential hopeful after Tainan Mayor William Lai’s (賴清德) recent announcement that he was not interested in running in next year’s election, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) seems to be taking a wait-and-see approach to determining who will be its candidate.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a KMT legislator said on Saturday that the party has its own candidate selection mechanism and does not need to rush into things.
“The only moment that really matters in an election is when people cast their ballot. The most important task lies ahead of the party is to become more in-sync with public opinion and roll out policies that can bring about ‘sensible differences,’” the lawmaker said. “Otherwise the KMT may not be able to turn the public tide in favor of its presidential candidate before election day.”
KMT headquarters is also remaining mum on its timetable for picking a candidate.
KMT spokesman Charles Chen (陳以信) said the party’s Organizational Development Committee would meet to discuss the matter, but will not say anything to the public until a conclusion is reached.
However, an anonymous source with close ties to the KMT said the committee already has a plan ready, but the party’s higher echelon believes the time is not right to show its cards.
“Since it is still too early to tell who are the likely candidates, the party is expected to release the selection timetable no sooner than the end of the Lunar New Year holiday. It may wait until May or June to finalize its presidential candidate,” the source said.
Party lawmakers are divided over whether New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫), who succeeded President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) as KMT chairman last month, should be the candidate if no suitable alternatives emerge.
KMT Legislator Wang Hui-mei (王惠美) said that even if Chu is selected through the party’s primary mechanism, his integrity could be challenged, referring to Chu’s promise on Wednesday that he will serve out his four-year term as mayor, which will not end until 2018.
KMT Lawmaker Liao Cheng-ching (廖正井) said that the KMT will not just roll over and hand the presidency on a silver platter to the DPP.
“If no one signs up for the primary, we will demand that the chairman take one for the team and run himself,” Liao said.
Chu’s popularity and reputation would undoubtedly help the KMT secure an even chance of winning the election, Liao said.
KMT Legislator Lu Hsueh-chang (呂學樟) said while Tsai might be able to take lead in planning for next year’s presidential election, Saturday’s by-elections results — which saw the KMT hold on to two of the five legislative seats up for grabs and the DPP hold onto its three — showed that the KMT still has many loyal supporters.
“Chu does seem to be the most ideal candidate at the moment and naturally we expect him to step forward to fight the battle,” Lu said.
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