TAIPEI - Sean Lien won a Kuomintang (KMT) primary yesterday after the final round of internal voting to become the ruling party's candidate for the year-end Taipei mayoral election. Lien defeated his major rival, Ting Shou-chung, in what was described as the fiercest primary the KMT has ever seen - a race that had been marred by an ugly fall-out between the two camps.
"I'll be even more humble in the face of the coming election," Lien said. "The most important thing is the party stays united.
"If I'm elected mayor, I won't disappoint the people who support me," he said, after the party announced the overall results for the two-stage primary.
He said he had already talked to Ting over the phone and received his support for the mayoral campaign. He said Ting also gave him suggestions on making a blueprint for running Taipei.
Lien noted that the roughly 40-per cent voter turnout in the internal voting session was a warning that the party must be united. "If we split, we'd all be crushed," he said.
Ting openly pledged full support for Lien as he addressed his supporters at his voter services office.
Lien beat Ting in the final round of voting by a wide margin, garnering 10,647 votes against the rival's 4,765.
The pair was in a tighter race in a previous round of public opinion polls: Lien's average support came to 48.19 per cent, and Ting's 35.018 per cent, according to figures released by the KMT.
Two other contestants, Tsai Cheng-yuan and Chung Hsiao-ping, lost in both rounds by wide margins.
Lien showed up early at the polling station to solicit support from fellow party members as the round of internal voting started.
His father, former Vice President Lien Chan, later also appeared to cast his ballot. The candidate's brother, Sheng-wu, came back to Taiwan from abroad specifically to vote for him, media reports said.
Ting also arrived early at the polling station, accompanied by his son. Ting said he would support Lien when asked if it was still possible for the two sides to mend ties.
KMT Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin called on all party members to rally behind Lien, according to city spokesman Chang Chi-chiang.
It remains uncertain who will represent the opposition camp to compete against Lien.
There are two frontrunners from the opposition camp: human rights lawyer Wellington Ku, who is a member of the Democratic Progressive Party; and Ko Wen-che, a doctor who is not a DPP member but is seeking support from the party.
Ku, commenting on Lien's primary victory, said the issues highlighted by the recent student movement may play a decisive role in the mayoral race.
It is now time for the young generations to decide whether they will allow Chinese capitalism and the "princelings" to have a place in Taiwan, Ku said. He did not elaborate.
Chinese capitalism alludes to the controversies surrounding the cross-strait services trade pact that sparked the student-led Sunflower Movement. The "princelings" remark seems to refer to Lien, who is from a wealthy family.
Ko said he will step up preparations for the "race of the gentlemen." But he said he cannot afford to play an expensive game where a lot of money has to be spent on media campaigns.
The DPP has had difficulties trying to accommodate Ko, whose popularity ratings have been much higher than those for Ku and many other DPP members also seeking to represent the party in the Taipei mayoral poll.