Taiwan’s main opposition parties, which favor engagement with China, are running out of time to form a joint ticket for January’s presidential election that would bolster their chances of unseating an incumbent party that’s had a rocky relationship with Beijing.
The Taiwan People’s Party and the Kuomintang announced last Wednesday that they’d agreed to form an alliance for the election and would announce on Saturday which of their candidates would lead the ticket. Instead, this past weekend saw those talks fall into disarray over over the question of who would be their joint presidential nominee, the TPP’s Ko Wen-je or the KMT’s Hou Yu-ih.
Ko appeared to raise the stakes even further on Sunday night when he told supporters at an event that he intended to run for president and “continue to fight to the end.” The KMT responded to Ko by saying they would continue to negotiate with the TPP.
If a joint ticket never materializes and both Ko and Hou continue their bids, it would increase the odds that the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s Lai Ching-te — who has topped polls for much of this year — wins in January. The deadline for officially registering candidates is this coming Friday, meaning the opposition parties have just a few days left to strike deal.
Lai led a poll released Wednesday by My Formosa, a private company whose founder is linked to the DPP, with the backing of 33.1% of respondents. Hou was second at 26.5%, and Ko third with 17.3% support. Foxconn Technology Group founder Terry Gou had the backing of 5% of respondents.
The announcement last week of a TPP-KMT alliance helped fuel gains in the Taiwan dollar and in the benchmark equity index amid expectations that an opposition victory would reduce geopolitical tensions. China, which claims self-governing Taiwan as part of its territory, has pledged to bring the island under Beijing’s control, even if it must use military force.
Both Ko and Hou have said they’d seek to establish high-level dialogue with China if they were elected president. That’s something the DPP have not been able to do since Tsai Ing-wen led the party to victory in 2016, becoming the first woman to serve as Taiwan’s president.
Beijing has insisted that Tsai affirm an understanding known as the “92 Consensus,” which essentially states that Taiwan is part of China, before there can be talks. Tsai and Lai, who is currently vice president, have said they won’t do so.
Despite the faltering talks, a TPP-KMT alliance is still on the table. The TPP’s Ko said Saturday he was “willing to continue negotiating”and that both sides needed more time to talk. The KMT also said they had not given up and will push for more discussions to seal the deal. KMT Chairman Eric Chu said he hopes a decision will come before Wednesday, according to local media.
“Managing cross-Strait relations against the backdrop of significantly greater U.S.-China tensions and China’s growing coercion against Taiwan will be more challenging than before,” said Tiffany Ma, senior director at BowerGroupAsia.
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