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Soong rocks the boat again

Soong rocks the boat again

He is one of the most prominent political seniors in Taiwan. Admired and loathed by some, James Soong has been instrumental in consolidating the power of the then-president Lee Teng-hui, who then brought full-blown democracy to the island nation.

He has run in all past three presidential elections, – in 2000, 2004 and 2012 respectively – but never once came on top. As Chairman of People First Party (PFP), Soong once again displayed his ability to rock the political landscape by announcing that he just might jump on the 2016 presidential bandwagon, further complicating a spirited campaign season that had been shaping up as a race between two women, Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party and Hung Hsiu-chu of the Nationalist Kuomintang.

According to PFP Deputy Secretary-General Liu Wen-hsiung on Monday, Soong’s decision to run for president is "almost certain," however adding that the announcement will come from Soong himself in early August.

The PFP said Soong's decision is based on both the presidential and legislative elections next year, and not just focused on his own pursuits.

Some observers believe that it might just be what the DPP wished for, to steal some votes off Hung so Tsai could secure a wider margin in votes from the former.

However, Liu turned down speculations that Soong would do anything to aid the DPP or overshadow Hung, and that her support rating wouldn’t be affected. Based on his account, the PFP chairman would join in on the presidential run because the “situation calls for it, and not because of Hung’s nomination.”

Liu’s definition of “situation” refers to KMT's incompetence and President Ma Ying-jeou’s poor governance in administering the country.

Soong’s presidential bid may send a knee jerk amongst deep-Blue supporters, which is widely seen as a major blow because he would most certainly drag down Hung’s votes, as Soong’s supporters would come from the KMT-led Pan-Blue coalition.

It wouldn’t be the first time Soong has split the KMT votes in favor of the opposition. During his first run in 2000, the then-independent candidate Soong squeezed some votes off KMT’s Lien Chan, who was running against the opposition’s DPP candidate Chen Shui-bien at the time. In that race, the pan-Green party managed to prevail over the Nationalist, a first in history. In the end, Soong received 36.8 percent of the votes, whereas Lien got merely 23.1 percent.

Since the election flop, the KMT has viewed Soong as a potential threat because of his popular appeal. To date, the PFP maintains a close but tense relationship with the pan-blue coalition. However, since PFP had, like the New Party, grown out of the KMT, the two parties had to compete for the same set of voters.

Observers believe that if Soong chose to run, he would be the wild card sucking up all the light-Blue votes (those that do not approve of Hung.) The speculation is that the 73-year-old political veteran wants to raise his party’s seats in the legislature.

It is expected that the PFP, which currently holds two seats in the 113-seat legislature, will derive the greatest benefit from the long-standing political division between the KMT and the DPP, as its candidates are likely to absorb some votes from the ranks of the pan-blue supporters.

Amidst speculations, Soong said in an open statement Tuesday that the KMT has nothing to fear because he would only gain 20,000 votes if he chose to run in the end.

According to a new survey by the Taiwan Brain Trust last week, Tsai would win 46.5 percent of the vote if she had to face down both candidates from the “blue” camp. Soong would receive 23.6 percent and Hung would finish last with 17 percent.

Regardless of the opinion poll, one thing for sure is that Soong will continue to rock the boat from now all the way to port until the elections are over in January. Meanwhile, the foreign media (BBC and The Observer), which has coined Taiwan’s 2016 election as the battle of two women, may also need to change their title to “The battle of Three’s Company.”

Let the media frenzy begin.

Updated : 2021-09-17 03:08 GMT+08:00