KMT considers replacing Keelung candidate
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-07-08 05:14 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The ruling Kuomintang was considering replacing its embattled Keelung City mayoral candidate Huang Ching-tai, with former immigration chief Hsieh Li-kung emerging as a possibility, reports said Tuesday.

Two of the KMT’s highest-profile vice chairmen, Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-bin and New Taipei City Mayor Eric Liluan Chu, recently said the ruling party should consider finding another candidate to replace the current city council speaker.

Huang is facing an investigation into allegations he accepted bribes from construction companies in return for allowing city inspectors to go slow on violations of building codes and regulations. The case is the latest in a series of corruption accusations against county- and city-level KMT officials and politicians.

Responding to calls for his replacement as a mayoral candidate, Huang said Tuesday he would defend his cleanliness with his life and his love for Keelung with his actions.

Former National Immigration Agency chief Hsieh Li-kung was mentioned by the Chinese-language United Evening News in its Tuesday edition as a potential “dark horse” to run for mayor in Keelung. He now serves as an adviser to the National Security Council.

Because he originates from the harbor city, Hsieh could be an ideal mayoral candidate, local KMT officials reportedly told the party leadership. The official also enjoys a positive reputation and wide-ranging experience, the newspaper reported. He could however refuse to join the race because of his late arrival and a lack of financial backing, according to the United Evening News. With only months left, Hsieh might struggle to achieve recognition and to establish the necessary contacts he did not have as a central government official, reports said.

Chu said Tuesday that the party leadership was already considering replacing Huang in order to win the mayoral election, scheduled for November 29, the same day that citizens all over Taiwan will go to the polls to vote for mayors, county magistrates, councilors and lower-level local officials. The statement follows Hau making his call for the replacement on Monday evening.

Several potential replacements for Huang have been mentioned in the media, including former presidential Vice Secretary-General Lo Chih-chiang, former government spokesmen Philip Yang and Su Jun-pin and lawmaker Hsieh Kuo-liang, but most have denied still being interested.

Hsieh was the only candidate who performed well in opinion polls pitting him against Democratic Progressive Party candidate Lin Yu-chang, but the KMT lawmaker was reportedly planning to join a family business rather than launch himself into local politics, the United Evening News reported. According to polls, Huang registered 18 percent support compared to 56 percent for Lin. The ruling party could not afford to lose Keelung, a KMT spokesman reportedly said. With the DPP candidate rising in the opinion polls, some local KMT officials might jump ship to the other side, according to the United Evening News.

The party has also come under fire for failing to take disciplinary action against Huang over the corruption allegations. According to party rules, he can reportedly only be sanctioned if ordered detained. Several attempts by prosecutors to do so were rejected by the courts.

The party is facing a difficult campaign, not only because of the local scandals, but also because of President Ma Ying-jeou’s low approval ratings.

In Taipei City, just like Keelung considered a ruling party stronghold, its mayoral candidate Sean Lien was shown to be trailing main opposition challenger Ko Wen-je by 20 percent according to a poll released by the Liberty Times last week.

Ma and Chu will reportedly appear on stage with Lien this coming Sunday in an effort to dispel speculation that the president and the candidate don’t see eye to eye. Over the past year, Lien has made several public remarks which were interpreted by the media as thinly veiled attacks on the president and KMT chairman.

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