Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Missing Piece

* With the opposition KMT expected to produce a presidential nominee by July 14, the media attention quickly turns to Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je, who has hinted repeatedly at running for the 2020 race but has yet made up his mind. The ETRC Group believes Ko WILL run for president in 2020 and will declare his candidacy, at the latest, by early August.

* Ko is fully aware that his shot at the top political job in Taiwan is now, not four years later when a new generation of political leaders, among other, Taiyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tseng (DPP) and New Taipei Mayor Ho Yue-i (KMT), could be in line to challenge the presidency. Prospects are not particularly bright for Ko if he waits until 2024.

* If he does declare his candidacy, Ko will be confronted with a difficult choice: whether he would run as an independent (an islandwide write-in campaign required), or he would join a political party and be its nominee. The People First Party (PFP), or former Taiwan Provincial Governor James Soong's party, may be the most likely option.

* Becoming the PFP's presidential nominee is a double-edged sword for Ko politically. While it would save him the time and trouble of launching a write-in campaign, Ko would have to "inherit" the party's political liability. Furthermore, it may turn off voters since Ko would lose the appeal as an independent not embroiled in Taiwan's highly confrontational partisan politics. Therefore, as we believe Ko has made up his mind to run, he does not appear set on "how" to operationalize his plans. The next two weeks will be the key.

Friday, July 5, 2019

It's now a 100-meter dash...

* The KMT enters into the final phase of its presidential primary next week when public opinion polls will be carried out during 7/8-8/14. The winner will be confirmed and announced on July 15.

* Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu and the ex-chairman of the Foxconn Group, Terry Gou, remain the frontrunners, though the margin has been narrowing in recent days. It is now essential a toss-up, and either Han or Gou could wind up winning the nomination.

*  The real challenge for the KMT, however, will begin after the nomination. The party has always had problems uniting the different factions and personalities after a fiercely contested race. Ever since the James Soong-Lien Chan rivalry in 2000, the KMT has been its worst enemy, and intra-party unity has been an elusive goal that causes its demise in races, big or small. One would think the party has learned from its past mistakes, but there's no indication that anything is different this time around.

* Forging party unity is a priority, and it will be the difference in the January 11, 2020, showdown with the ruling DPP's Tsai Ing-wen. The polls won't open for another six months, and that's more than a lifetime in Taiwan's fast-food political culture. No matter who wins the KMT nomination, the campaign will be heated and emotion-laden, with the results impacting the island's future beyond 2024.