KMT Chair: party seeking challengers for 2020, Han Kuo-yu welcome to step up

Han Kuo-yu demurred on Wednesday saying his priority is economic development in Kaohsiung

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File photo: Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (R) and KMT Chair Wu Den-yih (L)

File photo: Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (R) and KMT Chair Wu Den-yih (L) (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Kuomintang (KMT) Party Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), speaking on a radio program, Feb. 20, said that the field for KMT presidential candidates for 2020 is still open, ant that recently elected Kaohsiung Mayor, Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), is welcome to throw his hat in the ring.

On Feb. 17, Wu announced that the KMT party would be following a new procedure for selecting its candidate for the 2020 election, which will put the selection process firmly in the hands of party leadership.

The move has led many to suspect that Wu is angling to make himself the KMT candidate for the January 2020 presidential election, where a KMT challenger will face an incumbent Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who confirmed this week she will run for re-election.

Discussing the field of KMT candidates on Feb. 20, Wu said that there is new strict process for entry. When asked about the potential of Han as a candidate, Wu replied the party will not prohibit anyone from putting their name forward, reports UDN.

Recent online polls have shown that Han Kuo-yu is currently the most popular elected official in Taiwan, with Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je trailing shortly behind, and President Tsai coming in third place.

Han’s popularity has generated speculation, along with excitement and concern among different groups, that he may consider jumping directly into presidential politics, only months after his victory in Kaohsiung’s municipal elections last November.

However, later on Wednesday, Han made a statement to the media, stating that he is not currently of a mind to run, and that his priority remains in Kaohsiung to improve the local economy, reports UDN.

As a very popular politician, with what many regard as excessive attention from the media, Han is likely to be a very influential force in the KMT’s presidential campaign, regardless who the party selects.

Currently, there are two officially declared candidates angling for the KMT nomination, former New Taipei Mayor and previous KMT presidential candidate, Eric Chu (朱立倫), and former President of the Legislative Yuan, Wang Jin-Pyng (王金平).

There is also every indication that Wu, as KMT Chair, will put his name forward when the time comes for the inner KMT leadership to vote on the candidate.

Completing the group of what many commentators have called the “Big Four” of potentially viable KMT candidates, there is former President Ma Ying-Jeou (馬英九), who is a longtime rival of Wang Jin-Pyng. Ma has not yet indicated that he will seek to join the race.

Among the four, although Wang Jin-Pyng is thought to be a long shot for selection by party leaders, he is considered to have the closest relationship with Kaohsiung Mayor Han, and may potentially benefit from his popularity and support.