TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Speculation was mounting Tuesday that New Taipei City Mayor Eric Liluan Chu was close to announcing a decision he would not be seeking re-election but focus on a presidential bid instead.
Chu has been seen as one of the contenders most likely to become the ruling Kuomintang’s presidential candidate in 2016. He was recently promoted to KMT vice chairman in a bid to bring the ruling party closer to public opinion. Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-bin, often seen as his most likely KMT rival for the presidential nomination, and Taichung Mayor Jason Hu were also promoted to the same position.
The question about Chu was whether he would run for re-election as mayor in the November 29 elections, as a presidential election scheduled for early 2016 would force him to leave office soon if he won re-election. Chu could also choose to drop out of the local race and go straight into a presidential campaign, with a promotion to the KMT chairmanship or to the premiership some of the possibilities mentioned by commentators.
Recent media reports speculated he would make an announcement about his intentions before the end of the month, most likely on Wednesday May 28.
Asked about his intentions Tuesday morning, Chu said that everything had its schedule, and that each day he was mayor, he had to put governing the city first. Reporters asked him if it would not be too late if he still waited to announce a decision about the November vote, but he said that the citizens were more interested in how he governed the city.
The KMT had its own plans for the elections, so when it was time to nominate a candidate, it would nominate one, and when it was time to make an announcement, it would make the announcement, Chu said. Media reports speculated that the choice of a mayoral candidate should be wrapped up before the end of July.
President Ma Ying-jeou, who chairs the KMT and whose second and final term as president ends in 2016, said Chu would soon announce a decision, though he was in no position to speak in the mayor’s place. Ma said he often exchanged views with Chu.
The New Taipei City mayor reportedly paid several visits recently to senior KMT figures including honorary chairman Wu Po-hsiung. The choice between the mayoralty and the presidency was reportedly the main topic of conversation during those visits.
KMT lawmakers advised him to drop a re-election bid because his opponent was certain to attack him by asking him whether he would sit out his new term, reports said. The DPP nominated former Premier Yu Shyi-kun as the main opposition challenger, though Taiwan Solidarity Union Secretary-General Lin Chih-chia was also running.
If Chu did not stand for re-election, his deputy mayor, former national police chief Hou Yu-ih, and former Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan were the most likely KMT candidates, reports said.
As the local and regional elections approached, Prosecutor-General Yen Da-ho announced the formation Tuesday of special taskforces entrusted with tracking down vote buying and other corrupt election practices.