The stakes for KMT's likely candidate in coming election are high

The stakes for KMT's likely candidate in coming election are high
Taiwan's deputy parliamentary speaker Hung Hsiu-chu speaks to journalists at the parliament in Taipei on June 23, 2015.
PHOTO: AFP

Hung Hsiu-chu is almost certain to become the candidate representing the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) in next year's presidential election.

But running parallel to the presidential election will be another race between Hung and KMT chairman Eric Chu for control of the party.

When a single person takes both positions, there won't be any problem.

That was the case with President Ma Ying Ying-jeou before he resigned as KMT chairman to take the blame for the party's crushing defeat in the November local elections.

Ma has since become a lame duck, and in sharp contrast Chu has been looked upon as the "saviour" of the party until recently.

But Ma apparently has never stopped trying to exert his influence on the running of the party, particularly in the selection of its presidential candidate.

It has been said that Chu wanted Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng to represent the party in the race, but Ma, who sees the parliamentary leader as the major obstacle to implementing his reform, was working against his nomination.

Whatever happened behind the scenes may never be confirmed, but the dark horse, namely Hung, is clearly on course to become the KMT presidential candidate, only pending formal confirmation of her nomination by the party congress.

The failure to have Wang represent the KMT is one of the first signs that Chu has not been in tight control of the party.

He has yet to establish an authority immune to challenges.

Ma's manipulation may have not gone public, but Chu is now facing open challenges from someone who is threatening to take over his authority completely.

There have already been open conflicts between Chu and Hung.

Chu last week said that the party would arrange for Hung to visit the United States - an arrangement that Chu thought necessary in the wake of the recent US trip that Tsai Ing-wen, the presidential candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party, went on.

But Hung did not hide her reluctance to go on such a trip. She asserted the party was not in a position to arrange such a trip for her.

And she further dismissed the party's authority in outlining a discourse for her cross-strait platform, maintaining that she was the only one who would be responsible for writing her own Taiwan-China policy.

It is not just embarrassing for the KMT chairman; it is also a warning, giving him a glimpse to what it would be like if Hung becomes president.

It is believed that Hung originally did not really mean to go for the presidency. But now she is taking over Chu's role as the "saviour" of the party.

Chu has openly declared support for Hung, but the KMT chief must perfectly understand the implication of her nomination.

If she wins, Chu will hardly be able to take credit for her victory.

It will be a winner-takes-all situation: the chances of her taking over the KMT leadership will be also high - an arrangement that is usually made to facilitate the coordination and management of both party and government.

Of course, Chu would stand a good chance of becoming premier. But in many cases, the chief of the ruling party has more influence than the premier.

That is exactly the current situation inside the KMT and the government.

And if Hung becomes president, Chu would have to wait at least eight years before he could mount a bid of his own for the presidency.

If Hung loses, Chu will definitely have to take the blame.

Supporters would blame him for his indecisiveness over the nomination process, for his refusal to represent the party in the election, and for his inability to field the strongest possible candidate.

The pressure for him to resign as party chief will be particularly high if the party also suffers a defeat in the legislative elections taking place simultaneously.

Ironically, although Chu is not running, the stakes for him are high. Some of his supporters are said to be still trying to manoeuvre for him to replace Hung as the KMT candidate.

But the nomination process has come to a point of no return, whereby any backpedaling would create substantial damage to the party.

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