New Taipei City Mayor Chu to run for KMT chair, not president

New Taipei City Mayor Chu to run for KMT chair, not president
Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou speaks during a news conference about protesters' occupation of Taiwan's legislature.

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Newly re-elected New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu confirmed yesterday via his Facebook page that he will not join the much anticipated 2016 presidential election, although he will run for Kuomintang (KMT) party chairman.

Following the resignation of President Ma Ying-jeou as KMT chairman after the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) landslide victory in the 9-in-1 Elections, the position of KMT party chairman is open for the taking.

Chu was the only KMT victor of the mayoral elections in Taiwan's six special municipalities, making him one of the most likely candidates to run for KMT party chairman, as well as for the presidency in 2016. Thirty-four KMT legislators signed a petition the day before yesterday and urged Chu to run for the chairman position.

Chu expressed his appreciation to the voters of New Taipei City by commenting on his Facebook page. "Thank you New Taipei residents for giving me another chance, which I cherish very much," he said. As part of his gratitude to his loyal voters he pledged to carry out his full four-year term as mayor of New Taipei City.

"In the next four years, I will do my best on the job, serve my full term and will not run for president in 2016." The decision to run for party chairman was a personal one for him, and before making his Facebook announcement, Chu claimed he had only discussed the idea with his wife.

In a clear denial of any potential chance of running in the 2016 presidential election, Chu claimed that people are unhappy with KMT leadership due to stagnant income and an increasing gap between the rich and the poor. He also attributed citizens' recent dissatisfaction to other issues such as increasing housing prices, circumstances of cross-strait relations and recent food scandals.

He admitted that the KMT's defeat has sent a message to the party that there is a clear need to reassess the financial and tax systems and rebuild the party's core values, Chu wrote on his Facebook page.

Responses from Other KMT Members

Chu admitted in his online post that the KMT is not going through good times following its biggest defeat in decades, and he feels a sense of responsibility to step up and take on the role of chairman.

His comments reveal he feels a need to restructure the party from within. Chu even made a proposal to switch to a parliamentary system of government to reduce the occurrence of political stalemates in the Legislative Yuan. He added that the voting age ought to be lowered to 18 to include young people in elections, and that an absentee ballot system should be instated to increase overall participation. "Without new talent, the KMT will not have a future." he said.

The KMT is scheduled to hold a vote on Jan. 17 for party chairman. Outgoing Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin pledged his support for Chu yesterday saying he "admires and supports" Chu. "The KMT should support whomever has the best chances of winning" Hau added.

KMT Legislator Liao Cheng-ching expressed his fear that if Chu does not run in the 2016 election, the KMT will find it challenging to defeat its rivals. "I think it will be difficult" for the top KMT candidate not to run, Liao said.

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