When Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) managed to get himself nominated as the party’s presidential candidate, he never would have imagined himself being embroiled in a political conundrum such as the one he faces.
Vying for the top office is never an easy task, especially in Taiwan, where candidates often find themselves dogged by unsubstantiated accusations, malicious mudslinging campaigns and dissenting voices from within their own parties.
However, very few presidential candidates before Chu have been besieged on almost all fronts.
First, Chu’s justification for replacing Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) has been called into question.
He had hinted more than once that Hung’s terrible ratings could jeopardize the KMT’s legislative majority and force the party to hand over the absolute control that it has enjoyed for the past seven-and-a-half years to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
An opinion poll published by Taiwan Indicators Survey Research on Thursday last week found Chu to be even more unpopular than Hung among overall respondents as well as pan-blue supporters. Chu’s support ratings are only 0.8 percentage points higher than Hung’s when she was still the KMT’s candidate early last month.
Moreover, Chu’s replacement of Hung has embroiled him in an investigation launched by the Special Investigation Division of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, which is looking into allegations that he offered NT$30 million (US$916,926) to Hung in exchange for her withdrawal from the race.
Since the investigation might not be concluded any time soon, it would undoubtedly take a toll on Chu’s election prospects regardless of its outcome.
Finally, the manner in which Chu has been handling the impediments to Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng’s (王金平) potential bid for a fourth term as a legislator-at-large seems to have disgruntled the longest-serving legislative speaker and one of the most skilled masters of political maneuvering in the nation.
It seems Chu thinks that his moves to exempt Wang from the KMT’s self-imposed three-term limit on legislators-at-large who double as legislative speaker and repeatedly stress his significance to the party alone would appease the veteran politician.
It is in fact his reluctance to give what Wang wants — the top spot on the KMT’s legislator-at-large list for the Jan. 16 elections — that has infuriated the speaker.
Without Wang, Chu’s dream of bringing the party factions together to stage a show of a united KMT before the election might never come true.
Another problem for Chu is President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who has become a heavy but unshakable burden on the KMT’s shoulders, much like how former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) weighed the DPP down with his corruption scandals in 2008.
Dubbed “Ma version 2.0,” Chu has sought to escape the president’s shadow by taking shots at several controversial policies implemented by Ma’s administration, including the 12-year national education program, the capital gains tax and fuel and electricity price hikes.
However, his dilemma lies in the fact that he still needs to appeal to the party’s pro-China and anti-independence supporters if he intends to secure the KMT’s voter base.
That turns him into a two-faced person who, on the one hand, slams almost all of Ma’s major policies, but on the other hand praises his cross-strait policies and adherence to the so-called “1992 consensus.”
With only 72 days left until the presidential election, people would undoubtedly be watching whether Chu can push through the walls closing in on him, or simply become yet another victim of Ma’s poor governance and the KMT’s one-party rule.
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