By Brian Hioe

Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) was announced as the winner of the Kuomintang (KMT) presidential primary today.

Han won by overwhelming margins, garnering 44.80 percent of the vote. Foxconn founder Terry Gou (郭台銘), a major contender against Han for the nomination, obtained 27.73 percent of the vote, while former New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) only received 17.9 percent.

The KMT determined its presidential candidates through telephone polls, and the results are then confirmed by the party’s standing committee. Unlike the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the KMT does not include mobile phones in its phone polling process, which likely resulted in the sample size skewing older.


Han’s victory by a large margin came as a surprise as Gou was catching up in the polls last week.

He has benefited from constant media exposure since his rise from obscurity to superstardom in the months before the 2018 nine-in-one local elections. Gou, on the other hand, poured resources into campaign advertising last month, drawing on his wealth as Taiwan’s richest man.

In past months, Han toured Taiwan and held massive campaign rallies drawings tens of thousands.

Given his strong lead over Gou, Han should have a clear mandate to be the KMT’s presidential candidate. But much remains uncertain regarding Han’s candidacy.

Han had proposed to keep his mayoral position and has stated that, if elected president, he would continue work for part of the week in Kaohsiung. There is a precedence of KMT mayors running for president without resigning their mayoral position, as Eric Chu did in 2016. Han's suggestion, however, is aimed at allaying criticisms against his irresponsibility for abandoning Kaohsiung shortly after his election victory in November 2018. An active campaign "Recall Han Kuo-yu" (罷免韓國瑜) is taking place in Kaohsiung to recall his mayoral position.

Han's primary victory may provoke splits within the pan-blue camp as Gou has suggested he may run as an independent, a move that may dilute KMT votes in the 2020 election. The KMT may see Han as a threat to the party's internal hierarchy; an early sign of Han's disruptive nature was his tarrying on the KMT primary registration in hopes of the party rallying behind him with a consensus that he should be the presidential candidate.

What Han’s presidential candidacy will bring awaits the internal reactions from within the KMT, as well as the response to a Han candidacy from the DPP.

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TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)