The Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Central Committee elections on Saturday once again prompted the question of whether one of the winners, Sean Lien (連勝文), will run for Taipei mayor next year, even though he has remained silent about his plans.
Sean Lien, who is one of former vice president Lien Chan’s (連戰) sons and seen as a popular choice to run for the next mayoral elections, won the third-highest number of votes in the election for the 210 members of the KMT’s 19th Central Committee. He placed 11th in the last elections in 2009.
When he arrived at KMT headquarters to cast his vote on Saturday, supporters asked to have their pictures taken with him and shouted: “Go, mayor.” However, he remained silent on the issue.
If the 43-year-old decides to run, he is likely to face two KMT lawmakers who have indicated an interest in the job. His real challenge for the party nomination will likely come from Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), who is viewed as a dark horse in the race.
In the other camp, National Taiwan University Hospital physician Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) has begun to build his election campaign, although he has not yet confirmed his candidacy.
Because of his media exposure, Ko, who is often critical of the KMT government, but is not a member of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), appears to have an upper hand over some other opposition figures.
The mayoral races in Taipei and the four other special municipalities are part of the so-called seven-in-one elections to be held in December next year. In addition to the mayors, elections will also be held to choose council members, county commissioners, county council members, township mayors and other local public officials.
Nearly 69 percent of the nation’s population of 23.35 million live in the five municipalities and Taoyuan County, which will be upgraded to a special municipality next year.
Of the five major cities, the mayors of Taipei, New Taipei City (新北市) and Greater Taichung are members of the KMT, while Greater Tainan and Greater Kaohsiung are governed by DPP members.
In Taipei, Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) is term-limited and will step down next year after eight years in office.
In New Taipei City, whether Eric Chu (朱立倫), seen as a potential candidate for the next presidential election, will seek re-election has been the subject of much speculation. Another possible KMT candidate is Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源), according to unconfirmed reports.
The KMT nominee could run against Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃), a former premier and former DPP chairman, or Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政).
Greater Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) is expected to announce whether he will seek another four-year term later this year.
Several legislators are drumming up local support for their possible candidacies, while former Taichung county commissioner Liao Liou-yi (廖了以), Greater Taichung Deputy Mayor Shyu Jong-shyong (徐中雄) and Deputy Minister of the Interior Hsiao Chia-chi (蕭家淇), a former deputy mayor of Taichung, could also throw their hats in the ring.
Former DPP secretary-general Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全), who lost to Hu by a small margin in 2010, could run again. Alternatively, the DPP could nominate Legislator Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) as its candidate. Both are said to be actively seeking support in Greater Taichung.
The KMT hopes to expand its territory to the south, with Yang Chiu-hsing (楊秋興), former commissioner of Kaohsiung County before it was merged with Kaohsiung City, standing a good chance of being nominated for a rematch with Greater Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊), who beat him in 2010 when Yang withdrew his DPP membership and ran against Chen as an independent.
Having been appointed minister without portfolio, he applied for KMT membership in June, fueling speculation that he will become the party’s candidate in the next Greater Kaohsiung mayoral election.
The KMT has been looking for a viable candidate to challenge Greater Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德), who looks set to coast to a second term in the DPP stronghold.