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Han's win could mean KMT shakeup: source

2019/07/15 20:52

Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜, second right)

Taipei, July 15 (CNA) Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu's (韓國瑜) win in the opposition Kuomintang's (KMT's) presidential primary could mean a major shakeup in the party's power structure, a source in the KMT said Monday.

Han's victory over four other contenders, including Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. founder Terry Gou (郭台銘), means the incumbent Kaohsiung mayor will become a substantial leader of the main opposition party and will challenge President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who is seeking re-election in the 2020 presidential race, the source said.

Despite a lack of support from the KMT elite, Han, who has long been sidelined by the party, won by a landslide in the Kaohsiung mayoral race of November last year, with fervent backing from the grassroots, making him an atypical superstar in the nearly 100- year-old political party.

For the KMT, Han's emergence is set to break up the longstanding convoluted and complex power structure traditionally dominated by the party's elite, the source said.

With the approach of the presidential and legislative elections in January, the source said, Han is expected to have an impact in the party in terms of devising a campaign strategy and succession plans, further squeezing the space left over for the party's conventional old guard, which includes KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義).

Efforts by some Central Standing Committee members to amend the KMT's constitution to delink the party chairmanship and presidency are viewed as a move by the pro-Wu camp to preserve the KMT chairmanship for him, a source familiar with KMT affairs said.

Following his primary win, Han, with his down-to-earth charisma, is likely to take a different path, the source said. However, due to his capacity as incumbent mayor of Kaohsiung, he will need to recruit a team for his presidential bid, which might take time and will require him to deal with the party, the source warned.

However, some Han supporters believe that he will definitely bring changes to the staid KMT and make it more competitive and relevant to the people, although others are skeptical whether Han is capable of leading the party, which will be tested in the 2020 presidential election and the party's future development.

Later that same day, Gou, who finished second in the primary, congratulated Han on his win in a statement in which he stressed his love for the Republic of China and said he has been thinking about what else he can do for the country and the people.

Gou said he needs time to reflect and will take some time to give a report to the media and the public.

In a separate news conference, former New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫), who ranked third in the primary race, said he accepted the outcome calmly and vowed to serve as an adhesive to boost the KMT's unity, regardless of his personal loss.

"Neither the KMT nor Taiwan has won," he said, adding that more difficulties lie ahead and that "it's our responsibility and obligation to rebuild a united Taiwan."

For his part, meanwhile, Taipei Mayor Ke Wen-je (柯文哲), an independent who has been touted as a strong potential contender in the presidential race, said he will need to think it over before he makes his next move (declaring his presidential bid).

"I will wait and see," he said.

In contrast, DPP members lambasted Han for making his presidential bid while refusing to resign as mayor of Kaohsiung.

DPP lawmaker Hsu Chih-chieh (許智傑) said Han will be attacked for his decision to switch his position after having served as Kaohsiung mayor for only a little over six months. "This is an issue of integrity," he said.

Another DPP legislator, Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲), said in a Facebook post that Han's forthcoming nomination by the KMT to run for president means he is a step closer toward the presidency, which he said means that "the bell of doom for Taiwan's democracy and freedom will begin to toll."

(By Flor Wang, Yu Hsiang, Wang Yang-yu)Enditem/J