Af­ter her me­te­oric rise, Hung Hsiu-chu must face down harsh re­al­i­ties

The China Post - - LOCAL - BY YUAN-MING CHIAO

Deputy Speaker Hung Hsiu- chu’s fairy tale run to se­cure her party’s can­di­dacy has taken the Kuom­intang (KMT), the op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party (DPP) and much of the na­tion by sur­prise. But as the dust set­tles and the shock starts to wear off from her un­deni- ably gutsy feat, tough ques­tions re­gard­ing her electabil­ity still loom ahead. It re­mains to be seen how far her au­dac­ity will con­tinue to pro­pel her be­yond the party strong­hold which ini­tially cast her aside as cannon fod­der, to­ward the broader Tai­wanese elec­torate.

Af­ter a lull caused by the KMT top brass re­fus­ing to sit down in a some­what ghoul­ish game of mu­si­cal chairs to fi­nal­ize its can­di­date for pres­i­dent, they fi­nally have their woman: a plain-spo­ken, di­rect, stick-to-my-guns politi­cian who seems to be the per­fect coun- ter­point to the DPP’s soft-spo­ken, eru­dite yet emo­tion­ally dis­tant Tsai Ing-wen. And whereas Tsai has seem­ingly flip-flopped on crossstrait is­sues in or­der to toe the U.S. line, Hung makes no ef­fort to hide her sup­port for even­tual uni­fi­ca­tion.

The South­ern Ques­tion

How­ever, as much as Hung’s re­vi­tal­iza­tion of the pan-blue sup­port base has en­er­gized vot­ers who stayed home rather than vote dur­ing the KMT’s 2014 elec­tion de­ba­cle, it is un­clear whether her rhetoric will find res­o­nance in South­ern and even Cen­tral Tai­wan. In­deed, Hung has said that she re­quires both time and op­por­tu­ni­ties to win over those who do not sup­port her pres­i­den­tial bid, but how?

A fea­ture pub­lished by an op­po­si­tion-lean­ing think tank on Mon­day also ques­tioned Hung’s ex­pe­ri­ence in elec­tions, as she has not ever been in a one-on-one face-off be­fore. In those elec­tions she did win, she de­pended heav­ily on her base in then-Taipei County’s Yonghe, a tra­di­tional pan-blue strong­hold.

While some of Hung’s sup­port­ers ar­gue that a coun­try can­not be con­cep­tu­ally di­vided into re­gions, it is a feat of wish­ful think­ing to imag­ine away the KMT’s at­trac­tion (or lack thereof) south of the Zhu­oshui River. Hung’s meet­ing with well- con­nected Leg­isla­tive Speaker Wang Jin-pyng will be an im­por­tant step in gaug­ing whether she can broaden her sup­port there.

The

Se­cur­ing Party Unity

sig­nif­i­cance

of a Hung- Wang meet­ing also re­lates squarely to whether the dark horse can­di­date can ef­fec­tively bring the pan-blue coali­tion un­der a united ban­ner. Peo­ple First Party Chair­man James Soong, who was an also-ran in 2012, still has sig­nif­i­cant pull, and his wait­ing un­til Au­gust to fi­nal­ize his in­ten­tions will make it a chal­lenge to so­lid­ify the not-so-well-oiled KMT party ma­chine and bring it to bat­tle readi­ness. To her credit, Hung has al­ready shown that the public can be stirred to sup­port her for play­ing by the rules of the KMT, some­thing that boosted her prospects af­ter Wang’s “obliged to run” re­marks seem­ingly back­fired. It re­mains to be seen if the same party el­ders whose feath­ers she ruf­fled will in­deed sup­port her.

Whether Hung can con­vert sur­prise into a sus­tained plat­form that can tran­scend re­gional and ide­o­log­i­cal di­vides will now de­pend more on whether she can rally the elec­torate to de­mand a re­formed KMT which has al­lowed her run to con­tinue, rather than on sus­pend­ing dis­be­lief alone.

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