Taiwan's Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu officially became the Kuomintang's (KMT) 2016 presidential candidate yesterday at the ruling party's national congress held at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in downtown Taipei.
The move, which had taken shape from uncertainty to gradual cohesion among party heavyweights, now confirms a head-to-head campaign between two female front-runners, as Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will again lead the opposition party's bid for president of Taiwan.
Hung's candidacy was confirmed after 40 seconds of applause from party members in attendance, with shouts of: "Elect Hung Hsiu-chu!"
Party members prioritised maintaining both executive control and retaining a majority in the Legislature.
The party was comprehensively defeated in last year's nine-in-one local elections by the DPP.
The KMT's party congress, held under tight security, was attended by its most high-ranking officials, including President Ma Ying-jeou, party chairman Eric Chu, vice president Wu Den-yi, honorary chairman and former vice president Lien Chan and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng.
In an attempt to project an image of party unity, Hung joined hands on stage with Ma and Chu as she capped an unlikely bid to represent the party that created both excitement but also more recent skepticism regarding her electability.
In her speech delivered to party representatives at the KMT's 19th national congress, Hung promised to uphold the nation's constitution in pursuing relations with mainland China, echoing the current administration's policy of using the "1992 Consensus" (or "One China with different interpretations") as the basis for expanding and deepening engagement with Taiwan's traditional rival and number one trading partner.
There was no mention at all of Hung's previously proposed "One China, same interpretation" orientation toward relations with China, which had drawn both criticism and doubt from within and outside the party.
The congress approved the addition of the "1992 Consensus" into its party platform, which signaled that Hung had acquiesced on the issue of toeing an even more open-ended policy with China than the current administration and that proposed by the DPP's Tsai.
Hung also tried to outline other issues, including addressing intra-party strife, as well as the growing economic inequality faced by the island's population.
She also cited the challenges of maintaining national competitiveness under trends of increased economic globalisation. She also vowed to bring a more cohesive and fairer society that could transcend class, generations, gender and ethnicity.
Ending her speech in Taiwanese, Hung also tried to cast herself as the unlikely candidate, coming from a family background of economic difficulties.
Hung's deceased father was persecuted by the KMT during the island's White Terror period, having served for three years in a maximum security prison for political prisoners.
Expect a 'high-quality' campaign: DPP
The DPP reacted positively to Hung's official nomination, with party spokesman Juan Chao-hsiung stating that it hoped that the two candidates could promote an improved election culture devoid of personal attacks and smear tactics common to election campaigns in the island's vibrant yet oft-caustic democratic history.
Juan however extended criticism to Ma and Chu for their speeches at the KMT congress in which the ruling party had not "completed sufficient introspection" during its seven years in power.