TAIPEI, Nov 24 (Reuters) – Taiwan’s opposition parties, seeking closer ties with China, registered separate presidential candidates on Friday after a dramatic split, easing the way for the ruling party to stay in power despite pressure from Beijing.
The Jan. 13 election comes as China, which considers Taiwan its own territory, steps up military and political pressure to force the island to concede its sovereignty claim.
The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and the much smaller Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), both campaigning for better ties with China, have agreed to work together against the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), but there has been no progress on plans for a unified presidential election. .
China, which has framed the election as a choice between “peace and war”, believes the DPP and its presidential candidates are dangerous separatists and has rejected talks.
Late Thursday, the KMT walked out of the last round of talks with the TPP, held in front of reporters in a hotel conference room and televised live after failing to reach an agreement.
The talks were brokered by Terry Gow, the billionaire founder of key Apple supplier Foxconn ( 2317.TW ), who ran as an independent candidate.
In one of the most dramatic moments, the KMT’s presidential candidate Hu Yu-ih read a private text message from TPP candidate Go Wen-jae, in which Go said he had to “find a reason” to drop out of the presidential race.
Both Hou and Ko announced their participants on Friday morning — Hou chose controversial media personality Zhao Sha-gang, while Ko chose one of its lawmakers from the much smaller TPP, Cynthia Wu, whose family is a major shareholder in the conglomerate Shin Kong Group. .
Gou, who had been widely expected to drop out of the presidential race after opposition talks failed, confirmed he was doing so just three hours before the deadline to file his candidacy with the Election Commission.
‘Stability for the Taiwan Strait’
Hu introduced Zhao and promised to bring “stability to the Taiwan Strait and security to Taiwan, which will reassure the whole world”.
In contrast to the chaos in the opposition camp, a united DPP is pushing ahead with its election campaign, registering its presidential and vice-presidential candidates on Tuesday.
Huang Kwei-bo, a professor of diplomacy at Taipei’s National Chengchi University and former KMT vice secretary, said the opposition would hope for “positive changes” such as internal TPP scandals before election day.
“There will be a big uphill battle for both opposition parties,” he told Reuters.
TPP’s Lai Ching-te, Taiwan’s vice president, continues to lead the polls.
His campaign team on Friday called on the opposition to “quickly submit detailed policies” so that the election can “return to normal”.
Speaking at an election event late Thursday, Lai spoke about his team’s busy schedule, discussing policy with voters and the media, and railed against the disunity of the opposition.
“Do we dare entrust the business of running the country to them?” Lai said. “Of course it’s not right.”
But he said he was not resting despite the disunity of the opposition parties and mentioned the 11 events he had attended that day.
“Is it chosen lying down?” Lai also referred to earlier comments that failure of opposition politicians to unite would ensure an easy victory for Lai.
Taiwan’s stock market largely shrugged off the impact of the ongoing political drama, although travel-related dramas were shelved on concerns that relations with China would not improve and Chinese tourists would not return to Taiwan.
The tourism and hospitality sub-index (.THOI) fell 3.2% on Friday, compared with a flat benchmark index (.TWII).
Reporting by Yimou Lee and Sarah Wu; Writing and additional reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Roger Tung; Editing by Lincoln Feist and Jerry Doyle
Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Yimou Lee, a Reuters senior correspondent, covers everything from Taiwan to critical Taiwan-China relations, including China’s military aggression and Taiwan’s important role as a global semiconductor powerhouse. A three-time SOPA award winner, her reporting from Hong Kong, China, Myanmar and Taiwan over the past decade has included Myanmar’s crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, Hong Kong protests and Taiwan’s battle against China’s multi-pronged campaigns to annex the island.
Sarah Wu is a Taiwan correspondent based in Taipei, reporting on technology and politics. Previously, he covered politics and general news in Hong Kong. Born in Fujian, he grew up in Ontario and graduated from Harvard.