ELECTION 2024/TPP's Ko commits to presidential battle, hints at joint ticket collapse
Taipei, Nov. 19 (CNA) Taiwan People's Party (TPP) Chairman Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said Sunday that he will continue to fight to the end as his party's presidential candidate, after the TPP and Kuomintang (KMT) failed to agree to forming a joint presidential ticket the day before.
"I will not go against the will of the people, nor will I betray you," when addressing supporters at a party rally planned two months ago with around 4,000 people in attendance.
"In order to end the suffering of the people, I will extend the utmost goodwill, uniting all possible forces [to form a joint ticket]. However, I will continue to fight to the end in my capacity as the presidential candidate of the Taiwan People's Party," he said.
There had been speculation, some of it fed by Ko himself, that he would be announcing a running mate and the TPP's legislative candidates at the rally, but that did not happen.
Instead, Ko tried to play coy on the prospects of a joint KMT-TPP presidential ticket, which fell apart Saturday because of disputes over poll results.
The two sides had agreed on Nov. 15 to use polls to determine whether KMT presidential nominee Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜) would be at the top of a joint ticket with Ko as his running mate or vice versa, with polls within the margin of error going to Hou.
Based on statistical analysis of the polls, the KMT felt the results clearly favored a Hou/Ko ticket, but Ko, the former mayor of Taipei who has shown little inclination to play second fiddle on any presidential ticket, disagreed.
Before hitting the stage Sunday, Ko told the media that "he certainly looks forward to the opposition being able to select the strongest candidate" when asked about the prospects of a KMT-TPP alliance.
Following Ko's message, his spokesperson Vicky Chen (陳智菡) would only say to "refer to Ko's speech" when questioned if the TPP presidential candidate's comments implied that the KMT-TPP alliance has collapsed.
"There is no need for additional clarification," she said.
Chen also said she could not answer whether Ko would only accept the top spot on a joint presidential ticket, saying, "You are free to interpret it."
In response, the KMT said in a statement that as KMT-TPP cooperation has now entered its final stage, it will be committed to opening the door to the TPP and continuing negotiations with the party, "with utmost sincerity and patience."
It said it will continue to work on discussions with the TPP to address the aspirations of the vast majority of Taiwanese people for a rotation of parties.
Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德), the presidential nominee of the ruling Democratic Presidential Party (DPP), has been leading the polls for months because Hou, Ko, and business tycoon Terry Gou (郭台銘) have been dividing up opposition support.
The goal of fielding a joint ticket was to present a more unified challenge to the DPP, which has been in power for nearly eight years.
Earlier the same day, KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) said he hoped to secure a confirmation from the TPP on a potential joint presidential ticket by Nov. 22, just two days prior to the deadline for officially registering candidates in the presidential and legislative elections.
In a related development, former Kaohsiung mayor and the KMT's 2020 presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) has been selected to top the KMT's list of 34 legislator-at-large nominations in the upcoming elections, according to a list released by the KMT on Sunday.
Given Han's reputation as a charismatic politician who has strong support among the KMT's base, there has been speculation he could be Hou's running mate if a unified KMT-TPP ticket does not happen.
However, Ling Tao (凌濤), the deputy executive director of the National Policy Foundation, the KMT's think tank, dismissed the possibility on Sunday after attending the KMT's Central Standing Committee meeting, saying the list of legislator-at-large nominations has basically been finalized.
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