TAIPEI – Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of Foxconn Technology Group, pulled out of next year’s presidential election in Taiwan, a move that may help unite the opposition Kuomintang.
Gou apologized to his supporters in a statement on Facebook on Tuesday outlining his decision to withdraw from the race as an independent. After he quit the Kuomintang last week, he had come under pressure from opposition leaders, including former President Ma Ying-jeou, to drop out of the race and support their nominee to help return the China-friendly party to power.
“With this poor election climate and prevailing populism, I’m not willing to participate in this political farce, not only for my own personal and factional interests, but also because class struggle is tearing Taiwan apart,” Gou said in a video released Tuesday.
Gou could still run as a candidate for one of Taiwan’s established political parties.
Shares in companies controlled by Gou slumped Tuesday. FIH Mobile Ltd. was the worst performer on Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Composite Index, tumbling as much as 23.2 percent. His flagship Hong Hai Precision Industry Co. fell 2 percent in Taipei.
Gou had been widely expected to run for the presidency after publicly flirting with the idea since losing the Kuomintang primary to Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu in July. Gou’s candidacy threatened to sap support for Han who will challenge President Tsai Ing-wen in the Jan. 11 election.
Gou trailed the two candidates from the main parties by at least 7 percentage points, according to a survey released by TVBS last week. In a two-way race, Tsai leads with 49 percent of support, compared with 42 percent for Han.
Tsai could still face increased competition for voters who favor a stronger push for the island’s formal independence. Former Vice President Annette Lu announced her intention to run as an independent. Lu served as vice president under Chen Shui-bian between 2000 and 2008.