Taiwan’s opposition leadership race features familiar faces

Former Kuomintang Chairman Eric Chu seeks to retake the reins of Taiwan’s top opposition party in a September vote.   © Reuters

YU NAKAMURA, Nikkei staff writer | Taiwan

TAIPEI — Taiwan’s leading opposition Kuomintang approved Thursday four candidates to run in next month’s leadership race, as the Beijing-friendly party struggles to regain support following a crushing defeat in the 2020 presidential election.

The Sept. 25 vote is expected to boil down to a two-horse race between incumbent chairman Johnny Chiang, 49, and former party chair and former Taipei Mayor Eric Chu, 60.

Chu resigned as chairman after losing the 2016 presidential election to the Democratic Progressive Party’s Tsai Ing-wen, though he has remained a stalwart within the Kuomintang alongside former President Ma Ying-jeou.

Chiang became chairman in March 2020 after his predecessor stepped down over the Kuomintang’s loss against Tsai in the presidential election that January, amid hopes that a younger leader could put the party back on track.

The Kuomintang’s pro-Beijing stance has dealt a blow to the party’s popularity as China steps up pressure on the democratic island that China views as a renegade province. The party’s policies toward China will be key to its efforts to win over the public back ahead of local elections next year, which are considered a touchstone for the next presidential race in 2024.

Support for the Kuomintang had dropped to a record low of 18.7% in a report published July by the Election Study Center at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University. In contrast, support for the DPP, which has maintained a hard line on Beijing, came to 31.4%.

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