(Bloomberg) -- Taiwan’s main China-friendly opposition group elected a party stalwart as its new chairman in an attempt to overturn a string of recent election losses and return to power.
Eric Chu, the former mayor of Taiwan’s biggest municipality, New Taipei City, beat three other contenders in the Kuomintang leadership contest, securing about 46% of votes from party members. Academic Chang Yan-chung won 33% of the votes while current Chairman Johnny Chiang and former Changhua County magistrate Cho Po-yuan got 19% and 3% respectively.
This is Chu’s second stint as KMT chairman. He stepped down in 2016 -- just a year in the job -- after losing the presidential election to President Tsai Ing-wen.
Chu’s task will be to help his party return to power after two straight devastating election defeats to Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party, in which the KMT lost both the presidency and its former majority in the legislature. His party, which favors Taiwan’s eventual unification with China, has in recent years struggled to attract younger voters, who largely reject the notion of giving up its de facto independence.
The next presidential and legislative elections are scheduled to take place in 2024.
Taiwan’s fraught relationship with its giant neighbor China, the major dividing line in the island’s politics, is one area Chu says the KMT hopes to win support. Beijing cut off direct ties with Tsai’s government after she came into power in 2016 and has since steadily increased military, economic and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan.
China regularly sends its military aircraft into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone and has barred imports of several of the island’s agricultural products.
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Since 2016, China has lured away a third of Taiwan’s then-22 allies. Only 15 nations -- mainly small ones in the Pacific and Central America -- recognize Taiwan after Kiribati became the latest to switch ties to Beijing in 2019.
While Tsai has repeatedly offered to hold direct talks with the Chinese authorities as equals, Beijing says Taiwan’s government must first acknowledge it is part of China, something Tsai is unwilling to do.
Chu has promised to keep the “status quo” across the Taiwan Strait, maintaining the island as a separate, democratic entity without seeking formal independence.
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