PFP leader James Soong could change Taiwan's 2020 election landscape: political observer

Soong could syphon significant number of votes from KMT presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu if he decides to run

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(Photo credit: FB page @soong2016)

(Photo credit: FB page @soong2016)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) is said to be "highly likely" to run for Taiwan's presidency, a political observer has said such a move would spell doom for Kuomintang (KMT) candidate Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) in the 2020 race.

The presidential election is 65 days away, but the race might no longer be a showdown between incumbent Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the KMT's Han, who has found himself in hot water over a string of outrageous and mostly unattainable promises, with Soong highly likely to join the race.

There is believed to be a fair amount of overlap between the support bases for Soong, a seasoned political veteran, and Han, based on the number of votes Soong garnered in the previous race.

A recent article indicates that Han's supporters mainly comprise several distinct demographics: retired military personnel, teachers, and government employees over 60, as well as less-educated, working-class people. The latter are often not hardcore KMT supporters but voters who exhibit distrust of the political and business elites.

Political observer Huang Chuang-hsia (黃創夏) noted in a recent commentary that some of Han's supporters voted for Soong in previous presidential elections. However, as Han has been under attack for making outlandish and unattainable promises, which manifest his inexperience and ignorance in both domestic and international affairs, some pan-blue supporters might see Soong as a safer play.

Soong, 77, was the country's first popularly elected governor of Taiwan Province under the Republic of China constitutional structure before it became void in 1997 due to political reform. He ran for president as an independent in 2000 and for vice president on a ticket with KMT candidate Lien Chan (連戰) in 2004, running for president again in 2012 and 2016.

In between elections, the well-versed and well-respected politician remained active in domestic politics and international relations. Soong has been entrusted with attending important international meetings on behalf of Taiwan under his leadership of the PFP, including as a special envoy to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summits in 2016 and 2017.

Huang believes that Soong would dedicate himself to the race. "It is a great opportunity to once again steal the spotlight for the minority party and the show for Soong himself," Huang said. He expects Han to lose a portion of his support to Soong and drop below 20 percentage points in opinion polls.