Asia Pacific / Politics

In boost for Taiwan leader, China-friendly veteran James Soong set to run for Taiwan presidency

Bloomberg

Tsai Ing-wen’s chances of being re-elected as Taiwan’s president received a boost as one of Taiwan’s most senior China-friendly politicians appears set to enter the election, potentially sapping votes from the main opposition candidate.

People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong has decided to make a fourth run for Taiwan’s top office, the Taipei-based Liberty Times reported Monday, citing people it did not identify. A Soong campaign would likely hurt Kuomintang candidate Han Kuo-yu’s chances of unseating Tsai, since he and Soong both draw support from voters who favor eventual unification with China.

Soong has yet to make up his mind about whether to run in the election and will come to a decision in the coming days, PFP Secretary-General Lee Hung-chun said Monday. Parties have until the middle of November to nominate candidates for the Jan. 11 election.

Soong — born in the southern mainland province of Hunan in 1942, before the two sides split in civil war — has failed in three previous bids for Taiwan’s presidency. Arguably his most consequential run came in 2000, when his support helped ensure the election of Chen Shui-bian, the first president from Tsai’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

Soong also drew almost 13 percent of the vote in 2016, likely expanding Tsai’s margin of victory. Tsai currently enjoys a double-digit lead over Han — the mayor of the southern city of Kaohsiung — in most opinion polls.

Soong aims to rally support for lawmakers of his party in the legislative election to be held concurrently with the presidential vote, according to the Liberty Times. The PFP currently has three legislators in the 113-member assembly. The party opposes formal independence for Taiwan, espousing a gradual process of rapprochement between the two sides of the strait ending in “political integration.”

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