Taiwan’s largest opposition party, the Kuomintang, chose Hu Yu-ae, mayor of New Taipei City, on Wednesday as its candidate to run in next year’s presidential election.
Preparations for the elections, scheduled for mid-January, are taking place at a time of heightened tension between Taipei and Beijing, after China conducted repeated military exercises near Taiwan. To assert its claims of sovereignty over the island, which is administered by a democratically elected government. Taiwan strongly objects to these maneuvers.
The Kuomintang favors close ties with China, while the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) advocates for Taiwan to maintain an independent identity.
“Internationally, our country is facing a strong army and the threat of war,” Hu told reporters at the party headquarters in Taipei after announcing his candidacy.
“Inside, there are conflicts due to divisions and countless things to fix that make it difficult for young people to envision their future,” he said, vowing to lead the Kuomintang to victory in the elections.
Outside the party headquarters, dozens of people stood behind barriers, some waving the Taiwan flag. A large banner read, “Oppose war, we want peace.”
Eric Chu, chairman of the Kuomintang party, said the decision to nominate Hu was made based on the results of opinion polls and opinions of senior party members.
“For the sake of (Taiwan’s) future… the Kuomintang must return to power,” he added.
The last time the party came to power was from 2008 to 2016 in light of improving relations with China.
Hu will run against ruling party vice chairman William Lai, who was leading the KMT candidate by about five to 10 percentage points, according to three opinion polls released this week.
Hu, the 65-year-old former police chief, became the center of attention after he won again by landslide as mayor of New Taipei City late last year, in the local elections in which the Kuomintang defeated the Democratic Progressive Party.