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June 24, 2017

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Chu decision may shed light on future of KMT power structure

As the rumor mill continues to turn, incumbent New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu has yet to announce whether he will be seeking re-election, despite the nine-in-one polls coming up soon at year's end.

 It is possible that Chu has his sights set on the presidency in 2016, which would explain why — the mayoral election being less than six months away — he hasn't announced a re-election bid. What politician wouldn't entertain the possibility of becoming head of state?

 Forfeiting the mayoral election is necessary if Chu wants to run in the 2016 presidential race, because the electorate is not likely to look too favorably on a mayor who quits his job halfway to fulfill greater ambitions.

 Indeed, rumor has it that Chu may step away from this year's election and be appointed as premier instead; that is, if he reaches an agreement with his party.

 If he were to run for president, Chu would need to stay politically relevant, and being premier would help ensure that. That being said, there hasn't been a precedent in Taiwan of premiers going on to win the Presidential Office, though not for a lack of trying.

 Local media have even speculated that the Kuomintang (KMT) headquarters has arranged for current Premier Jiang Yi-huah and Chu to swap positions, meaning that Jiang will run for New Taipei in Chu's stead.

 Although Jiang has never run in an election, the odds of him winning the race — though slim — are not entirely nonexistent, given that there are doubts over the rival candidate's chances of securing a victory.

 Criticism of former Premier Yu Shyi-kun's running for New Taipei has emerged within the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP); some claim that Yu lacks "charisma," while others have gone as far as to say that he won the nomination because of a behind-the-scenes arrangement with former DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang, who only recently stepped down. Groundless as the claims might seem, one has to consider the fact that during the previous New Taipei election, the DPP fielded Tsai Ing-wen, who is charismatic and enjoys a great deal of popularity, and lost.

 Although elections in Greater Taipei have traditionally been regarded as an uphill battle for the DPP, New Taipei is arguably less of a pan-blue stronghold than Taipei, and if one considers the awkward position that New Taipei-based KMT politicians are in, due to the administration's position on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, the DPP may have a better chance of winning this year.


If one were given to believing rumors, Chu has made up his mind to run for president. The problem is the arrangements that need to be made. Political commentators say that Chu is planning to let his deputy, Hou Yu-ih, run for mayor; however, that still leaves open the question of how Chu intends to remain relevant for the next two years. Staying in the limelight is important if not necessary. Former Taiwan Governor James Soong declared his retirement from politics in 2006 and stayed more or less under the radar until years later, which didn't exactly help his bid for the Presidential Office despite the seemingly immense popularity he enjoyed in the past.

 If Chu doesn't run in this year's race, a new structure of power will likely emerge within the KMT, with Chu and Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin facing off against each other for the Presidential Office.

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