The stakes for Chu in the com­ing elec­tion are high

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

Hung Hsiu-chu is al­most cer­tain to be­come the can­di­date rep­re­sent­ing the rul­ing Kuom­intang (KMT) in next year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. But run­ning par­al­lel to the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion will be another race be­tween Hung and KMT Chair­man Eric Chu for con­trol of the party.

When a sin­gle per­son takes both po­si­tions, there won’t be any prob­lem. That was the case with Pres­i­dent Ma Ying Ying-jeou be­fore he re­signed as KMT chair­man to take the blame for the party’s crush­ing de­feat in the Novem­ber lo­cal elec­tions.

Ma has since be­come a lame duck, and in sharp con­trast Chu has been looked upon as the “sav­ior” of the party un­til re­cently. But Ma ap­par­ently has never stopped try­ing to ex­ert his in­flu­ence on the run­ning of the party, par­tic­u­larly in the se­lec­tion of its pres­i­den­tial can­di­date.

It has been said that Chu wanted Leg­isla­tive Speaker Wang Jin-pyng to rep­re­sent the party in the race, but Ma, who sees the par­lia­men­tary leader as the ma­jor ob­sta­cle to im­ple­ment­ing his re­form, was work­ing against his nom­i­na­tion.

What­ever hap­pened be­hind the scenes may never be con­firmed, but the dark horse, namely Hung, is clearly on course to be­come the KMT pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, only pend­ing for­mal con­fir­ma­tion of her nom­i­na­tion by the party congress.

The fail­ure to have Wang rep­re­sent the KMT is one of the first signs that Chu has not been in tight con­trol of the party. He has yet to es­tab­lish an au­thor­ity im­mune to chal­lenges.

Ma’s ma­nip­u­la­tion may have not gone public, but Chu is now fac­ing open chal­lenges from some­one who is threat­en­ing to take over his au­thor­ity com­pletely. There have al­ready been open con­flicts be­tween Chu and Hung.

Chu last week said that the party would ar­range for Hung to visit the United States — an ar­range­ment that Chu thought nec­es­sary in the wake of the re­cent U.S. trip that Tsai Ing-wen, the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date of the Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party, went on.

But Hung did not hide her re­luc­tance to go on such a trip. She as­serted the party was not in a po­si­tion to ar­range such a trip for her. And she fur­ther dis­missed the party’s au­thor­ity in out­lin­ing a dis­course for her cross-strait plat­form, main­tain­ing that she was the only one who would be re­spon­si­ble for writ­ing her own Tai­wan-China pol­icy.

It is not just em­bar­rass­ing for the KMT chair­man; it is also a warn­ing, giv­ing him a glimpse to what it would be like if Hung be­comes pres­i­dent.

It is be­lieved that Hung orig­i­nally did not re­ally mean to go for the pres­i­dency. But now she is tak­ing over Chu’s role as the “sav­ior” of the party.

Chu has openly de­clared sup­port for Hung, but the KMT chief must per­fectly un­der­stand the im­pli­ca­tion of her nom­i­na­tion.

If she wins, Chu will hardly be able to take credit for her vic­tory. It will be a win­ner-takes-all sit­u­a­tion: the chances of her tak­ing over the KMT lead­er­ship will be also high — an ar­range­ment that is usu­ally made to fa­cil­i­tate the co­or­di­na­tion and man­age­ment of both party and gov­ern­ment.

Of course, Chu would stand a good chance of be­com­ing premier. But in many cases, the chief of the rul­ing party has more in­flu­ence than the premier. That is ex­actly the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in­side the KMT and the gov­ern­ment.

And if Hung be­comes pres­i­dent, Chu would have to wait at least eight years be­fore he could mount a bid of his own for the pres­i­dency.

If Hung loses, Chu will def­i­nitely have to take the blame. Sup­port­ers would blame him for his in­de­ci­sive­ness over the nom­i­na­tion process, for his re­fusal to rep­re­sent the party in the elec­tion, and for his in­abil­ity to field the strong­est pos­si­ble can­di­date.

The pres­sure for him to re­sign as party chief will be par­tic­u­larly high if the party also suf­fers a de­feat in the leg­isla­tive elec­tions tak­ing place si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

Iron­i­cally, although Chu is not run­ning, the stakes for him are high. Some of his sup­port­ers are said to be still try­ing to ma­neu­ver for him to re­place Hung as the KMT can­di­date.

But the nom­i­na­tion process has come to a point of no re­turn, whereby any backpedal­ing would cre­ate sub­stan­tial dam­age to the party.

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