Back to list

James Soong announces presidential bid (update)

2019/11/13 16:22:24

People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜, left) and his running mate Sandra Yu (余湘).

Taipei, Nov. 13 (CNA) People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) has formally announced that he will run for president in the January 2020 elections, his fourth attempt for the presidency after three previous defeats.

The 77-year-old Soong, who has not been relevant in a presidential race since 2004, may be mounting his latest bid more to support PFP legislative candidates and maintain the small party's presence in the Legislative Yuan than out of any expectation of winning the presidency, political observers said.

At a news conference in which Soong announced his bid, he said the 2020 presidential election will be the last fight in his political career.

"I don't care whether I win the 2020 election and will not seek fame or benefits for myself," Soong said. "But I will fight for a win for Taiwan and a victory for the Republic of China," he said, without elaborating.

Soong also announced that Sandra Yu (余湘), the former chairwoman of advertising firm United Communications Group, would be his running mate.

He praised Yu for going from a switchboard operator to the chairman of a company and for her achievements in the industry that earned her the nicknames "godmother of advertising" and "godmother of media."

Soong said he admired Yu's leadership, under which the United Communications Group became the first advertising firm in Taiwan to be publicly listed.

"She has the soul of a fighter," Soong said.

Yu said Soong first invited her to be his running mate when he met with her on Oct. 28.

Despite initially rejecting the offer, Yu eventually agreed, saying she believed Soong's platform would meet the expectations of people in Taiwan, referring to his policies on relations with China and Taiwan's future development.

"We are Taiwanese and also Chinese," Yu said. "As long as Taiwan and China maintain peaceful cross-strait relations and the blue and green camps stop their infighting, Taiwan's economy will be able to move ahead, and the country will prosper," Yu said.

Several aides of billionaire Terry Gou (郭台銘), including Tsai Chin-yu (蔡沁瑜) and Amanda Liu (劉宥彤), attended Soong's news conference, raising speculation of possible cooperation between the two.

In response, Soong said he was grateful for Gou's support, adding that the two of them both love the Republic of China, feel strongly about local economic development, and see maintaining peaceful relations across the Taiwan Strait as the most important issue.

Soong said the nomination list of the PFP's slate of legislator-at-large candidates will see the "shadow of Gou," implying a possible inclusion of Gou's followers.

Gou, the founder of iPhone assembler Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the world's largest contract electronics maker, announced he was withdrawing from the Kuomintang (KMT) in September after he lost to Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) in the KMT's presidential primary in July.

Also at the news conference, Belle Yu (于美人), a TV celebrity in Taiwan, said she will serve as spokesperson of Soong's campaign and was honored to be part of the team.

Soong entry into the race is likely to deal another blow to the already embattled candidacy of the KMT's nominee Han, who has lagged far behind in the polls to incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).

Soong, a former KMT member before forming his own party in 2000, who like Han believes Taiwan should do more to engage with China, could siphon off votes from mainstream KMT supporters who feel uncomfortable with the populist Kaohsiung mayor.

Initial polls conducted before Soong's announcement had him getting around 8.5 percent support in the Jan. 11, 2020 election.

The PFP chairman's closest brush with presidential success was in 2000, when he ran for president as an independent after failing to secure the nomination of the then ruling KMT.

His 36.84 percent of the vote fell 2.5 percentage points short of winner Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who benefited from the split of the pro-KMT vote.

KMT nominee Lien Chan (連戰) was a clear third with only 23.1 percent support.

Lien and Soong then teamed up in 2004, with Soong as the vice-presidential candidate, in a bid to deny Chen re-election, but they lost by less than 0.25 percentage points.

Soong set up the PFP after his election loss in 2000, and has run for president under the PFP banner twice, in 2012 and 2016, garnering 2.76 percent and 12.83 percent of the vote in the process.

He also ran for Taipei mayor in 2006 and won only 4.14 percent support.

Soong's decision to join the 2020 presidential vote had been widely expected recently and was confirmed Tuesday by former Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), who said the PFP chairman made his intentions clear during a phone conversation they had.

The 78-year-old Wang, a KMT lawmaker, withdrew his own presidential bid after failing to be nominated by the PFP as he had previously hoped.

(By Wang Cheng-chung and Frances Huang)
Enditem/ls