by Matthew Strong
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The Kuomintang’s Central Standing Committee decided Wednesday to convene a special congress at which it could replace presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu by its chairman, Eric Liluan Chu.
The decision was expected, as 27 out of the CSC’s 39 members had signed a petition in that sense, reports said.
The date of the congress had not been fixed yet Wednesday, but it could be held either on October 17 or 24, reports said.
An initial plan to vote about the proposal for a congress was abandoned when it became clear that most members of the CSC were in favor of replacing Hung with Chu.
Before the meeting started, Chu criticized Hung in a short address attended by the media. Her China policies differed from what the KMT had always wanted and had also strayed away from mainstream public opinion in Taiwan. Her performance in opinion polls was also less than favorable as she had failed to obtain majority support from the public, Chu said.
The party leader said that members should speak the truth and not hold back about the problems they faced, because that was the only way in which problems could be solved. He said that this approach could lead to solidarity and to party unity.
Everybody should put the party ahead of the self, Chu said, rejecting a hint by Hung at a news conference Tuesday that the KMT was working on an exchange of favors to persuade her to withdraw from the race.
The CSC meeting was the latest phase of a sudden escalating rupture between Hung and the KMT leadership. At her news conference Tuesday afternoon, Hung insisted she would not accept any backroom deals but run to the bitter end because she had been nominated through the legal party process. Her decision for the special news conference followed comments by Chu earlier in the day saying he would not evade his responsibility. His words were widely interpreted as showing his willingness to accept the nomination.
The movement to replace Hung has been mostly motivated by her poor opinion poll results. She has been lagging 20 to 30 percent behind Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen in most recent opinion polls, even though People First Party Chairman James Soong has fallen even further behind.
Her pronounced statements in favor of a further move toward unification have also caused a fall in support, with prominent KMT figures in Southern Taiwan finding it hard to keep campaigning for her, reports said.
The ruling party might not only lose the presidential election, which it also did in 2000 and 2004, but also its majority at the Legislative Yuan, which would be a first.