KMT picks ex-Premier Simon Chang to run for Taoyuan mayor

05/18/2022 07:01 PM
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Former Premier Simon Chang (standing) thanks members of the KMT
Former Premier Simon Chang (standing) thanks members of the KMT's Central Standing Committee, after he was picked to run in the Taoyuan mayoral election in November. CNA photo May 18, 2022

Taipei, May 18 (CNA) Taiwan's opposition Kuomintang (KMT) chose former Premier Simon Chang (張善政) as its candidate for Taoyuan mayor following a closed-door meeting Wednesday.

Speaking after the KMT's Central Standing Committee meeting Wednesday, KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) said the decision was made based on "who can bring changes to the city" rather than "who was interested in running."

Chu's comments were a likely reference to the campaign of former Taipei City Councilor Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強), launched on April 6 and described as "regrettable" at the time by the KMT Secretary-General Justin Huang (黃健庭).

Responding to Wednesday's news, Lo said in a social media post that he was "shocked" and "stunned" by the decision, adding that it was his supporters rather than himself that he felt most sorry for.

Wednesday news also came as surprise to supporters of Taoyuan politicos Lu Yu-ling (呂玉玲) and Lu Ming-che (魯明哲), both members of the Legislative Yuan.

In a statement, Lu Yu-ling described the nomination process as an "unfathomable and unacceptable ambush" that had damaged the reputation of the KMT.

She added that the decision would undermine local support for the party and prove detrimental to its chances of winning November's election.

Striking a more conciliatory tone, Lu Ming-che said he would campaign for Chang because the party's nominee had the credentials to be a competent mayor of Taoyuan.

While thanking the other potential nominees for their campaigning, Chu said he hoped they would now rally around Chang, whose background in engineering, high-tech industry, and government made him "capable of turning Taoyuan into an Asian Silicon Valley."

KMT Chairman Eric Chu (left) and former Premier Simon Chang (second right). CNA photo May 18, 2022
KMT Chairman Eric Chu (left) and former Premier Simon Chang (second right). CNA photo May 18, 2022

Before entering politics in 2012, Chang, a graduate of Cornell University's engineering program, had worked for various tech companies, most notably as director of Google's hardware operations in Asia.

After initially joining then-President Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) KMT administration as a minister without portfolio, Chang went on to serve as minister of science and technology, vice-premier, and then briefly premier before the KMT lost power in May 2016.

Chang was also Han Kuo-yu's (韓國瑜) running mate in Taiwan's 2020 presidential election, a race that he lost.

Speaking to reporters following his nomination, Chang -- who Chu said had only recently joined the KMT -- said that "from this moment on, I and my fellow Taoyuan citizens are a community of shared destiny on the same boat."

With a population of 2.27 million, Taoyuan is Taiwan's fifth-most populous municipality in Taiwan and is home to many industrial parks and high-tech companies.

Power in the city has been held by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) since 2014 when the former Taoyuan County was upgraded to one of Taiwan's six special municipalities.

Taoyuan had been considered a KMT stronghold beginning in 2001 when the magistrate's race was won by current-KMT Chairman Chu.

Chu was replaced by John Wu (吳志揚) in 2009, who served for five years before losing to the DPP's Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦) in 2014.

The DPP is yet to announce its candidate, with Cheng, reelected by a comfortable margin in 2018, barred from running for a third term.

Meanwhile, Hualien County Magistrate Hsu Chen-wei (徐榛蔚) and Taitung County Magistrate Yao Ching-ling (饒慶鈴) both secured the KMT's nomination to run for reelection in their respective counties.

(By Liu Kuan-ting and Shih Hsiu-chuan)

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