Financial Times names Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je as potential Taiwan president

Lack of nationwide party or network could harm his chances

Mayor Ko (center) at a Teachers Day event Sept. 28. (By Central News Agency)

Mayor Ko on an inspection tour Saturday. (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) is a potential future presidential candidate thanks to his blunt style, the Financial Times of London wrote in a profile this week.

The Kuomintang (國民黨) has fallen out of favor, especially with young people, while President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) Democratic Progressive Party (民進黨) is struggling to live up to high expectations, leaving Ko as the man in the middle, the article says.

“He has called protesting pensioners “bastards,” compared Taiwan and China to quarrelling lovers and said it is a “miracle” he has survived three years in office,” the newspaper opened its report.

Ko is described as the most popular politician in Taiwan but commentators say he would struggle in a nationwide election because of the lack of a political party or network to back him up. The next presidential ballot is expected in January 2020, but late next year, he will be facing the Taipei mayoral election.

The Financial Times also points at his recent comments about China, which have made him unpopular with a section of the DPP grassroots, which backed him in the 2014 mayoral election.

The government is “not quiet enough” when it comes to China, the newspaper quotes Ko as saying, adding that unless antagonized, Beijing will not focus on Taiwan because it has more serious problems in the region, such as North Korea and the South China Sea.

The mayor says Taiwan has passed the point of no return, and, unlike Hong Kong, its democracy cannot be turned back.

The Financial Times compares Ko to British Foreign Secretary and former London Mayor Boris Johnson for his “headline-grabbing antics” and to former United States presidential contender Bernie Sanders for his “avuncular approach.”