James Soong announces presidential bid - Focus Taiwan

2020 ELECTIONS / James Soong announces presidential bid

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.

His entry into the race is likely to deal another blow to the already embattled candidacy of the Kuomintang (KMT)'s nominee Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), 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, could siphon off votes from mainstream KMT supporters who feel uncomfortable with the populist Han.

Initial polls conducted before Soong's announcement had him getting around 8.5 percent support.

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 Kuomintang (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 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)

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