Eric Chu to run for party chair, aiming to return KMT to power

08/03/2021 06:13 PM
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Former New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu. CNA photo Aug. 3, 2021
Former New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu. CNA photo Aug. 3, 2021

Taipei, Aug. 3 (CNA) Former New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫), who has announced his plan to run for chairman of Taiwan's main opposition Kuomintang (KMT), said Tuesday that his chairmanship bid is aimed at helping the party return to power.

Chu, who served as KMT chairman from 2015 to 2016, announced his bid to lead the party on his Facebook page Monday under the title of "Change brings hope, regaining leadership brings about change."

Chu had a chance to take over the reins of the party after former Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) resigned to take responsibility for the party's defeat in the presidential and legislative elections in January 2020.

He decided not to run in the by-election for the party's top spot in March 2020, however, because he wanted the new generation to take over the KMT, he said at a news conference Tuesday.

At that time, Chu said he was pleased to see Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) win the by-election and hoped he would carry out the necessary reforms.

But while KMT supporters have been keen to see the party grow stronger, the party seems to have failed them, Chu said.

If the party had performed in a satisfactory way over the past 18 months, "I wouldn't have had to enter the chairmanship race," Chu said.

Asked whether he is eyeing a run in the 2024 presidential election by launching the bid for the KMT chairmanship, Chu said his first aim if elected is to help the party win the 2022 local elections.

He said he wanted to boost the party's approval and acceptance ratings above those of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) within a year and win at least three of Taiwan's six special municipalities and at least eight of the other 16 city and county seats in the local elections next year.

Turning to the KMT's strategy for the 2024 presidential race, Chu said the party will select the strongest candidate in the race that gives the KMT the best chance to regain power.

Arguing that the KMT is the most important force to stabilize relations across the Taiwan Strait and safeguard the Republic of China (Taiwan), Chu said he hoped relations with China will move in the direction of "seeking common ground while respecting differences," rather than "seeking common ground while reserving differences."

Chu is expected to pose the biggest challenge to 49-year-old incumbent KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣), who has announced he will seek re-election in the vote scheduled for Sept. 25.

In response to Chu's comments, Chiang said his leadership style was open to criticism, but indicated that public opinion polls showed the KMT's approval ratings have climbed over the past year and that the gap between the KMT's and DPP's approval ratings have narrowed.

Polls conducted by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation found that the KMT's approval rose from a low of 12.5 percent in February 2020 to 21.9 percent last week, while the DPP's dropped from 41.1 percent to 28.3 percent during the same period.

Chiang said that if elected he would be absolutely impartial in nominating party candidates and helping them win in the 2022 local elections and 2024 presidential race because he will not run for president in 2024.

The KMT chairmanship election was originally scheduled for July 24 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Taiwan. Candidate registration is scheduled for Aug. 16-17.

Aside from Chu and Chiang, three other KMT members have expressed their intention to run for KMT chairman -- Chang Ya-chung (張亞中), president of the NGO Sun Yat-sen School; Wei Po-tao (韋伯韜), former head of the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics; and former Changhua County Magistrate Cho Po-yuan (卓伯源).

(By Wang Cheng-chung and Evelyn Kao)

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