Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) has decided to seek re-election as party leader late this year. He could potentially face challenges from candidates including former KMT chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫), Central Committee member Sean Lien (連勝文) and former Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜).
A possible new alliance has lately emerged, as Chu is said to have made a concession to Chiang by giving up his chairmanship bid, so they can work together to consolidate party support ahead of the local elections next year. The two could then team up in the primary to win the party’s nomination for a “Chu-Chiang” ticket in the 2024 presidential election.
Speculation is rife within the party about a Chu-Chiang ticket, and it cannot be ruled out that internal rivals are trying to sabotage the alliance by leaking the news. Not long ago, the KMT leadership wanted to invite Lien to serve concurrently as the party’s secretary-general, but when the news was leaked, Lien was said to be unhappy, with some believing that the exposure was intentional.
The KMT is now closely watching if Lien would make a chairmanship bid, and it is clear that there is still much internal debate about a Chu-Chiang alliance.
As the KMT’s pro-China camp is eager to challenge a Chu-Chiang alliance, some are waiting for New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi’s (侯友宜) next step. Hou is turning 64 this year, and if his team believes that he cannot afford to skip the 2024 presidential race because of his age, the mayor of the nation’s largest city would become a competitor that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) cannot ignore.
As such, Hou might be both a partner and competitor to other KMT leaders. In particular, interaction between Hou and Chu might be awkward, as Hou was Chu’s deputy mayor. If Hou decides to seek re-election next year, it would be deemed inappropriate for him to run for president halfway through his second term. However, if he decides to run for president, he would need to announce whether he would seek re-election by the end of this year or early next year. Following Han’s performance and recall in Kaohsiung, it is a moral imperative for all politicians.
From the perspective of the KMT leadership, the most important tasks this year are the push for a referendum on US pork imports containing ractopamine in August and the restoration of the party’s relationship with Washington under US President Joe Biden. This is also why the KMT is planning to reopen its representative office there.
The contradiction between these two tasks shows that the KMT is hoping to maintain a good relationship with both Washington and Beijing, as the US-China dispute continues. No one in the party elite knows how to make this dream a reality.
It seems that the KMT is far from the kind of opposition party that would be capable of deepening Taiwan’s democracy, and maintaining checks and balances. This is also the party’s Achilles’ heel, as it would be difficult for any newly formed alliances within the party to synchronize their views on these issues.
Tzou Jiing-wen is the editor-in-chief of the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper).
Translated by Eddy Chang
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