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KMT faces next challenge in Keelung

Following both Taipei and New Taipei mayors publicly urging the Kuomintang (KMT) to reconsider the mayoral candidate for Keelung City, the ruling party yesterday during its weekly Central Standing Committee meeting revoked Keelung City Council Speaker Huang Ching-tai's (黃景泰) nomination.

Earlier in June, prosecutors raided the Keelung City Government compound and Huang's office in the city council building. Millions of dollars in cash were discovered in a bedroom in Huang's office in the city council building. The prosecutors later attempted to detain Huang on allegations of corruption and improper lobbying.

Since the news Huang's alleged involvement in corruption broke out, political commentators have been discussing the possibility of the KMT revoking Huang's Keelung mayoral nomination.

Securing Taipei, New Taipei and Keelung

Although the investigation into the alleged corruption is still ongoing, several KMT members have raised concern over the mayoral elections at the end of this year. Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) and New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) suggested that they are worried that the development will affect the KMT's performance in the Taipei and New Taipei mayoral campaigns, especially for Chu, since he has pledged to run for reelection.

On the other hand, given that a recent approval rating poll shows that the KMT's nominated candidate for Taipei, Sean Lien (連勝文), falls far behind pan-green Taipei mayoral candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) — a National Taiwan University Hospital physician who has never played a part in politics before — Lien is concerned that Huang's alleged corruption will drag him down to an even lower approval rating.

After the incident had brewed for over a month, the KMT yesterday finally made the decision to revoke Huang's nomination. President Ma Ying-jeou, who doubles as the KMT chairman, said it was a “painful and yet necessary” decision, however, failing to do so would pose greater harm to the party.

Taipei, New Taipei and Keelung have long been seen as pan-blue areas. As Lien's opinion approval rates and support are on the brink of dropping to new lows, the KMT's move to cut off Huang was a necessary decision to make so that it save its year-end elections in Northern Taiwan. The ruling party cannot afford to have another party member ruin its image before the elections because of alleged corruption.

Upcoming Challenge

So the problem for the KMT right now is who should replace Huang to run for the election.

Huang has cultivated his political power in Keelung over the past few years. Many have speculated that the fact that Huang could return to the city council for work during his own detention hearing proves his strong political power in the city.

After the KMT made the announcement yesterday, Keelung City Councilor Han Liang-chi (韓良圻) said that he will proactively strive for the KMT's nomination. KMT lawmaker Hsu Shao-ping's (徐少萍) son Lin Pei-hsiang (林沛祥) is also interested in running in the Keelung mayoral election.

Given that Ma's former aide in the Presidential Office Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) and KMT lawmaker George Hsieh (謝國樑) have expressed that they are not interested in seeking the position, it would be a challenge for Ma to find another candidate who can compete with Huang's connections in Keelung and at the same time abide by his will.

The ruling party has yet to decide on how to nominate a new candidate for the Keelung election after the revocation of Huang's nomination; however, people who are interested in seeking the position of mayor are getting ready for a fight.

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