New Taipei mayor shows no interest in presidency

New Taipei mayor shows no interest in presidency
Chief of Kuomintang Eric Chu.

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu yesterday continued to rule himself out of the presidential election although his Kuomintang (KMT) is set to lay down the rules for a primary for which only one party member has so far declared her candidacy.

"I've said it many times and don't have to repeat the answer," Chu, who doubles as KMT chairman, said when asked if he would run for the presidency, according to media reports.

Looked up by many KMT members as the party's best bet for the presidential race, Chu nevertheless has repeatedly promised to see out his four-year mayoral term, which lasts till 2018 and keeps him out of contention for the nation's top post next year.

Potential candidates have all been very cautious and none of them have spelled out their interest, except for Legislative Deputy Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu, who on Friday declared her presidential bid.

"We welcome anyone as long as they are sincerely devoted to serving the country," said Chu, commenting on Hung's bid.

Hung Declares Bid

The KMT's Central Standing Committee is scheduled to meet and discuss matters concerning the presidential primary Wednesday, and Chu said the rules for the nomination process will be set during the meeting.

Declaring her bid, Hung said she will not back off without fighting it out in the primary, media outlets including The China Times reported.

She said in the past the KMT nomination process usually involved internal negotiations prior to the primary, which served as a mere formality to confirm what had already been determined.

But times have changed, and an "open primary" will be a showcase of the party's democracy.

Asked if she wishes to see Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng become one of her contenders in the KMT primary, Hung said she welcomes competition from any capable rivals.

Wang has remained tight-lipped about his possible candidacy, despite widespread speculation that he will throw his hat in the ring.

But the deputy speaker complained that the KMT has been dragging its feet on the nomination process, in sharp contrast to the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party, which has already decided to nominate Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen for the presidency.

The KMT is desperate to keep the presidency after its humiliating defeat in the local elections in November 2014, after which Chu took over the KMT helm from President Ma Ying-jeou.

Political observers say if Chu runs for the presidency, he would have to give up the New Taipei mayoral post to which he was narrowly elected in November. Although giving up the mayorship would not be legally required, it would be a necessary step to show his commitment to the presidential race.

It means a big gamble for both Chu and the ruling party: They could lose both the presidency and the control in New Taipei, the only of the six special municipalities that is still governed by a KMT mayor.

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