New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) has thrown his hat into the upcoming 2020 presidential race.

The Kuomintang (KMT) veteran stepped down today as mayor and announced he would contest the presidency, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency.

Chu was also the KMT candidate in 2016, gaining 31.0 percent of the vote and losing to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).


Credit: Reuters / Pichi Chuang

2016 presidential candidates Eric Chu (L), Tsai Ing-wen (C) and James Soong.

However, the resurgent KMT is enjoying a wave of momentum after throttling the ruling DPP in last month’s regional elections. The KMT presidential nomination, which does not have an official process, will be closely watched in the months to come.

The announcement also comes amid scrutiny of the Tsai administration’s management of cross-Strait relations. Recent opinion polls hint that most Taiwanese do not approve of the DPP’s cross-Strait policies and may support the so-called “1992 Consensus” with Beijing.

Chu, who is ceding his New Taipei mayoral seat to the KMT’s Hou You-yi (侯友宜), has said he sees the 1992 Consensus as a legitimate basis for cross-Strait relations.

According to CNA, Chu said he would begin his presidential bid by informally consulting with people in Taiwan and internationally and would set up his own office to manage his campaign.

Chu is expected to be joined by a deep field of presumptive KMT candidates, possibly including KMT chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) and former Legislative Yuan president Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).

Shifting cross-Strait sentiments

Chu lost in a landslide in the 2016 presidential election as the DPP’s Tsai took 56.1 percent of the vote, while People First Party (PFP) candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) nabbed 12.8 percent.

But Tsai’s administration has seen its support evaporate after perceived economic failures and an inability to resolve contentious issues such as pension reform and raising the minimum wage.

The mishaps cost the DPP on Nov. 24 when the KMT took mayoral elections in municipalities including New Taipei, Taoyuan and Kaohsiung. While many commentators have said the losses were unrelated to Tsai’s cross-Strait policies, opinion polls show that voters are unhappy with the current state of relations with China.


Credit: Reuters / TPG

Eric Chu (L) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during their May 4, 2015 meeting in Beijing.

A poll conducted last week by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation showed that 65.7 percent of respondents disapprove of Tsai’s cross-Strait strategy, while only 25.3 percent voiced their approval. Tsai’s approval rating also slipped to a new low of 24.3 percent.

35.6 of respondents said they support the KMT, compared to 27.5 percent who support the DPP and 32 percent who said they are independent or neutral.

“The results show that the KMT has fully recovered from its bruising defeat in the 2016 elections, while the DPP has slid back to where it was 10 years ago,” said foundation chairman You Ying-lung (游盈隆), according to the Taipei Times.

A recent poll by the Taiwan-based China Times, which is seen as taking a pro-unification editorial stance, showed that over 60 percent of people in Taiwan agreed to developing relations with China under the “1992 Consensus.”

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) responded by questioning the validity of the poll due to problems with its methodology and impartiality, noting that many respondents likely misinterpreted the meaning of the consensus.

Tsai and her DPP government do not recognize the so-called consensus, which states that both Taipei and Beijing recognize that there is “one China,” encompassing both China and Taiwan, but agree to disagree on what this means.

Chu spoke in support of the 1992 Consensus during a March meeting with Liu Jieyi (劉結一), head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office.

At the time, the MAC said Chu’s positions were not representative of the views of the Taiwanese people.

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