by Matthew Strong
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – As presidential election frontrunner Tsai Ing-wen confirmed the choice of former Health Minister Chen Chien-jen as her running mate, speculation increased that Kuomintang candidate Eric Liluan Chu would pick ex-Labor Minister Jennifer Wang as his vice-presidential hopeful.
After days of reports in the media, Tsai confirmed on Monday that Academia Sinica Vice President Chen, who led the nation’s effort against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) a decade ago, would be her running mate. Since opinion polls have been putting her way out in the lead for months, the epidemiologist is widely expected to become vice president.
Since a KMT congress nominated party chairman Chu last month to replace faltering Legislative Vice Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu as its candidate in the January 16 election, his poll standings have barely improved. Choosing a female running mate could help compensate and raise his profile in the opinion surveys, reports said.
Unconfirmed reports said Wang, 54, once a minister of the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA), which has since been transformed into the Ministry of Labor, corresponded to all conditions recently set out by Chu.
The KMT candidate reportedly said he wanted somebody with a positive social image and with experience in government administration. In addition, he said he did not consider gender, party affiliation, regional or ethnic origin as factors in selecting a running mate.
Before joining the government, Wang was known as an activist for women’s and workers’ rights. She ran the CLA from 2008 to 2012, resigning after her proposal to raise the minimum monthly wage was rejected by then-Premier Sean Chen.
The third candidate in the race for the presidency, People First Party Chairman James Soong, said he would present his running mate at a news conference Wednesday morning. He said his choice would not be a political novice, while his or her gender was not important. In previous presidential elections Soong participated in, he usually picked running mates with medical backgrounds who were little known by the public at large.