Months of exciting speculation are now over -- with more months of exciting speculation ahead!
Yes, James Soong, former KMT heavyweight, leader of the People First Party (PFP), a sort of KMT-lite, has officially declared his candidacy. FocusTaiwan reports:
James Soong (宋楚瑜), chairman of Taiwan's minority People First Party (PFP), announced Thursday that he will run in the presidential election to be held next January to help the country rise above political confrontations and to "find a roadmap for Taiwan's future."Let's not forget what Soong is: a mainlander and supporter of "unification". He is also a canny politician and popular with the over-50 crowd. It's going to be a long campaign, but over time people will start to remember that he served the KMT security state and its dictators his whole career and that he worked to suppress Taiwanese culture and Taiwanese democracy. Stories of his alleged corruption from his time as provincial governor are going to ricochet around the media and wherever people gather to talk politics.
Soong, 73, made the announcement as Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), candidate of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), appears to enjoy a healthy lead over the ruling Kuomintang's (KMT's) Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) in the race to succeed President Ma Ying-jeou, who will step down next May after two four-year terms.
Reading from a statement, Soong promised that if he wins the election, he will strive to forge a consensus among political parties in order to resolve the thorny issues that have dogged Taiwan for years.
Polls have him splitting the Blue vote with Hung, plus perhaps picking up a few independents, leaving Tsai with a comfortable plurality of the vote. At the moment, many are saying they will vote for Soong, so he will poll well. A couple of KMT lawmakers have already gone over to him (Story of one). But remember that in 2012 he consistently polled between 6 and 10% -- then got 2.7% of the vote in the actual election.
Much will depend on how many and which politicians will follow him out of the KMT, and also what deals he can make with the DPP. The coming weeks will see intense speculation about Wang Jin-pyng, the KMT Speaker of the Legislature and Taiwanese heavyweight, as a possible Vice President or as the leader of a group of Taiwanese faction politicians who have left the KMT for the PFP. But remind your friends who say they will vote for him that the PFP is simply the KMT spelled differently -- a group of local faction politicians making a living on government patronage funding, led by a member of the mainlander ruling core.
Meanwhile, back in KMT Classic© land, Eric Chu -- remember him? He's the Chairman of the Party, although he's been eclipsed by Ma Ying-jeou, who has handed him Ma v2.0 in the form of ideological twin Hung Hsiu-chu, the Party's current presidential candidate. Today the KMT announced that Chu is Hung's "campaign chairman". I kid you not:
Yesterday evening, Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) , Deputy Speaker of Legislative Yuan and KMT Presidential candidate, said that she had requested Chu to assist her and Chu promised to join hands in her campaign. Therefore, according to Hung, her campaign office would not look for another campaign chairman; however, a campaign manager would play the role of a bridge between the KMT and Hung’s aides. Yiin Chii-ming (尹啟銘), a former Economics Minister and president of the National Policy Foundation, the KMT think tank, has been appointed Hung’s campaign manager.Yes, Chu will be a "bridge" between the campaign and the KMT even though Hung's campaign manager is already head of the Party think tank -- the campaign is totally integrated into the Party. The Hung campaign basically handed him a title and told him to go in a corner and sit facing the wall til the campaign was over. As David on Formosa remarked on Twitter today, no one has squandered so much political capital so quickly.
Think the Economist will write again about the charismatic Chu? Bwahahahaha.
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