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Chu seen representing KMT in New Taipei City mayor election
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-06-15 08:41 PM
It seems everyone is talking about the political future of New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu these days – everyone, that is, except Chu himself. A senior KMT legislator said last week he had heard from someone close to Chu that the mayor has promised KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou he will run for re-election in New Taipei City to ensure that the ruling party keeps its hold on the sprawling metropolis. Yet to be worked out, however, is the question of whether Chu will stand for the KMT as its candidate in the 2016 presidential election.

If Chu is re-elected in New Taipei City, the legislator explained, he would have to take leave after only two years in office if he wants to run for president in 2016. And if he were to win the presidential election, the Deputy Mayor – currently Hou You-yi – would step up to take over as Mayor.

Chu reportedly has a lot more trust in Hou than the KMT does. The party is concerned that if Chu is re-elected and abandons his office to run for president and is replaced by Hou as Mayor, it could cause trouble for the party in the 2016 general election. Veterans in the KMT are wary of a repeat of the problems created when Chen Shui-bian won election as president and the KMT also lost its hold on Chiayi,

If Chu were to win the 2016 presidential elections and if Hou took over as mayor of New Taipei City, there would be little ramification for the KMT. At the same time, it is not a given that Chu would represent the KMT in the presidential race. Current Vice President Wu Den-yih may also have his eyes on the presidency, and as party chair Ma Ying-jeou is obligated to remain impartial and uncommitted in order to preserve order and harmony in the party.

Ma reportedly discussed the situation as early as a month ago with Chu and reached an agreement. Thus when Chu was asked his plans May 20 on the sixth anniversary of Ma’s first inauguration, he told reporters, "I think it will all be announced soon, but right now it is inconvenient for me to say anything."

The only reason Chu might be reluctant to run for re-election, say party insiders, is because if he wins and then decides to run for president in 2016 he could be tagged with the label of 'runaway mayor." There is a precedent, however – and on the DPP side. When DPP chair Tsai Ing-wen ran for mayor of New Taipei City in 2010 the KMT made a lot of noise over the fact that she would probably jump ship and run for president in 2012. The KMT’s publicity machine hammered Tsai on the point for three months, but she simply shook off the accusations.

As for Hou You-yi, he enjoys high visibility and has an image as a bit of a tough guy, but he has not really been tested in the political arena. He has been strict in handling police controversies in the past and in resolving a more recent lunchbox case in area schools. He lost points with the police and those in education in those tiffs, and he also alienated some in the Blue camp with his actions in the controversy surrounding the 319 shooting of Chen Shui-bian and Annette Lu.

The unnamed legislator says that Chu agreed to run for re-election in New Taipei City in order to help out the KMT. If the KMT were to let New Taipei City slip away in this year’s election it would mean that the single largest bloc of voters in Taiwan was suddenly in Green hands. If that were to happen, the legislator muses, would Chu still be hungry to run for president in 2016?

The legislator warned that Chu should not put off announcing his plans too long. There is less than half a year to go before the election and it is dangerous for the KMT to delay starting its promotion of candidates in all the major races.

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