by Brian Hioe

PPhoto credit: Eric Chu / Facebook

OLD NEW TAIPEI Mayor and former party chairman Eric Chu was the winner of today’s KMT presidential elections. Chu was the clear winner, with 83,027 votes, or 45.96% of the votes counted, at the time of publication. However, what turns out to be significant is that after Chu, Sun Yat-Sen school principal Chang Ya-chung won the second highest number of votes, with 58,980 or 32.65. % voices. After Chang was the current President Johnny Chiang, who was running for re-election, with 33,604 or 18.6% of the votes counted, and last was the former Changhua County Magistrate, Cho Po-yuan, with 5,037 vote, or 2.79%.

Voting began at 8 a.m. today and lasted until 4 p.m. at polling stations in Taiwan. A little after 6 p.m., the results of the race were already known. The turnout was high compared to the 2020 by-election that put Johnny Chiang in power, which saw a turnout of 35.85% of eligible voters. With 182,571 out of around 370,000 eligible voters participating, the turnout is expected to exceed 50%, which could be indicative of a vibrant party base at present.

In the weeks immediately preceding the elections, it came as a surprise when polls from TVBS and other pan-blue media indicated that Chu and Chang were neck and neck in the race, or that Chang was ahead of Chu. This was ultimately not the case; Chu’s victory over Chang was still some 25,000 votes. Still, some questioned the accuracy of the polls that showed Chang’s strong performance.

Campaign advertisement by Eric Chu. Photo credit: Eric Chu / Facebook

Perhaps as a result, media discourse in the weeks leading up to the election focused on the race like the one that was mainly between Chu and Chang. The attacks between Chu and Chang became more and more intense, while Chu accused Chang of being an extreme supporter of unification, based on his academic background, and Chang denied this, claiming that Eric Chu did not understand the 1992 Consensus.

At the time of the second debate of the president of the KMT, the other candidates appeared to have backed down, with Chu and Chang continuing to exchange blows during the debate, which took place on September 18 and was broadcast by CtiTV.

And so, even after Chu’s clear victory, his victory was largely framed in terms of Chang’s surprisingly solid performance. Namely, Chang has become the preferred candidate of the Deep Blues within the KMT. Chang, an academic, is normally the head of the Deep Blue educational institution, the Sun Yat-Sen School. Although previously an aide to former KMT chairman Hung Hsiu-chu, another deep blue heavyweight within the KMT, Chang has made a name for himself during the COVID-19 pandemic that has hit Taiwan since May.

Chang’s meteoric rise to fame in relative obscurity began after he claimed he could facilitate the donation of ten million vaccines from China from a little-known Chinese organization, the Beijing Cross- Straits Eastern Culture Center. It would be five million BioNTech vaccines, sent from China, and five million Sinopharm vaccines developed in China according to Chang, although this turned out to be suspicious given that China had not approved the use of BioNTech on a national level.

Chang then had unexpected disputes with former allies after claiming in the presidential election that he could facilitate a $ 5 million loan from a Malaysian friend. Hung, who is currently chairman of the KMT’s central standing committee, raised concerns that Chang couldn’t prove he had the money, which could create problems if the party issues a promissory note promising the refund of money that never materialized. Chang’s story of troubled financial transactions and apparent marital affairs has also been reported by media such as the Apple Daily.

It is possible that these scandals are hurting Chang’s electoral chances. Still, it’s clear that Chang was the Deep Blues’ preferred contender, and that’s where his base of support comes from. Indeed, it is generally to be expected that in the future, in the elections for the President of the KMT, there will be a candidate representing the Deep Blues.

Chang Ya-chung. Photo credit: Zhang Pei-zhi / VOA / Public domain

Many expected it to be Jaw Shaw-kong, President of the Broadcasting Corporation of China or even the former mayor of Kaohsiung, Han Kuo-yu, who was rumored to be considering a run. Cho Po-yuan also seemed to be looking for deep blue support. Still, it ended up being Chang Ya-chung. There now appears to be a clear trend within the KMT for the deep blue numbers to come out of obscurity on the basis of hardline positions, of which Chang is the latest example.

Eric Chu will therefore have to deal with the attacks of the Deep Blues as president, including how his previous tenure as president of the KMT was seen as a failure. Chu will likely face criticism as he previously called for changing the party’s image to attract young people and was seen as relatively pro-American, which has been raised by Chang and Cho in previous years. discussions by the president of the KMT. Indeed, during presidential debates, although both Chu and Chiang are relative moderates within the party, their political backgrounds have been hinted at as ammunition to be used against them.

This proves another question as to why Chu seems to have become the preferred candidate of the young and moderate KMT, winning against Johnny Chiang. Chiang is notably the youngest KMT chairman in the party’s history and when he first took office he openly considered dropping the 1992 Consensus. After a backlash from inside the party, Chiang moved away from this notion and began to advocate for the ROC as the party’s base.

Indeed, during the campaign for the presidency, Eric Chu and Johnny Chiang both stood in defense of the 1992 Consensus and in defense of the Republic of China as a consensual position that the KMT should take. The fact that Chiang, who had both called for party reform a year earlier, moved to a status quo position may indicate the party’s drift towards the deep blue specter, especially after Han Kuo’s influential presidential run. -yu in 2020, during which Han called for the defense of the Republic of China against the DPP’s efforts for Taiwan independence.

Nonetheless, Chu and Chiang otherwise seemed relatively indistinguishable candidates, and so it’s surprising that Chu won out over Chiang so easily. Chu may have benefited from being an older politician, with more connections and experience due to his former New Taipei mayor and Taoyuan magistrate. Or the youth of the party may have lent their support behind him in order to prevent Chang Ya-chung from becoming president. It’s possible that Chiang’s poor performance compared to Chu and Chang, when many viewed the race to be primarily between him and Eric Chu, could be seen as a bad verdict on his performance as party chairman.

Johnny Chiang declaring Eric Chu winner of the race. Photo credit: Brian Hioe

Chu leaned heavily on attacks on the DPP, repeatedly denouncing the DPP’s efforts to promote “Taiwanese cultural independence.” That being said, it may be that Johnny Chiang’s political trajectory offers important precedents for how Eric Chu’s presidency will unfold. Namely, while Chu may have sought to adhere to status quo positions to appeal to the party base, it is not impossible for Chu to call for party reform again in an attempt to appeal. to members of the general public who are not members of the KMT – yet, in the face of resistance, it will be pushed into the status quo, so that it will not only fail in the implementation of reforms, but will also in the face of a continued backlash from hardliners. Perhaps this is the fate of all aspiring KMT reformers.

In his concession speech, Chiang called on Chu to focus on the referendum and the recall vote against Chen Po-wei of the Taiwan Statebuilding Party as subsequent battles for the KMT to fight. We will then see how Chu behaves as president in the coming days.

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