Taiwan Quick Take: A coming rematch between Wu Den-yih and Han Kuo-yu for KMT chair?

As those of you who follow Current Affairs Taiwan (CAT) or have been reading posts here on Taiwan Report know, KMT chair Wu Den-yih’s (吳敦義) tenure has been a disaster on almost all fronts.  In spite of his term officially ending in May of 2021, the local press has been openly speculating on which KMT bigwig would challenge Wu for the post after the widely expected election disaster on January 11–after all it is customary to resign to accept responsibility for a major defeat. Common names bandied about include former Taipei Mayor and current vice chair Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), former KMT chair Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), former KMT chair Eric Chu (朱立倫), New Taipei Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) and Kaohsiung Mayor and current KMT presidential nominee Daniel Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜).  It’s worth noting that in the last KMT chair race, Wu won handily, but second was Hung and at distant third was Dan Han Kuo-yu, then a relative unknown.  Yesterday I wrote and quoted the following, pointing out that it looks like Dan Han has his eyes on the prize:

One would think, however, that his position might be more secure if KMT candidate and Kaohsiung Mayor Daniel Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) were to win the presidential election.  Not if Han has his way.  This from the Taipei Times:

“If elected president, I promise that I will work hard, that the KMT will undergo reforms and that we will cultivate younger generations,” he said, urging supporters to give the KMT another chance.

In other words, he expects to become party chair if he wins.  He also worked a key audience that can both boost the vote in the coming election, and in any KMT party chair race, by offering them a pay raise:

Han also promised to offer township mayors a fixed salary or a raise in their monthly allowance.

Then today a series  of five short articles in Mirror Media titled “Han fans to take down Wu Den-yih” came out.  In it are a mix of revelations and cited KMT inside sources suggesting a widespread plan has been underway since mid-November.  I should qualify that I have no way of knowing how knowledgeable their inside sources are, or how many–it’s often unclear in Chinese if it is “source” or “sources” being referred to.

The first article has two revelations.  One is that it quotes Wu as determined to serve out his full term, saying in reference to challengers “we can talk about it after I’ve served my four year term” and “I absolutely will not step down early, I will serve out my entire term into 2021”. That’s unambiguous, but two problems for Wu.  First, pressure will be high to take the customary step to resign to take responsibility.  Second, if he doesn’t, he may find he lacks the authority and respect to effectively do the job.

The second revelation is interesting if true.  It says that a drive has been underway to draft Han fans into the party, and they’re already brought in over 10,000.

The second article has another bombshell (if true): that the powerful military veterans grouping the Huang Fu Hsing has split into two factions over the appointment of Wu Sz-huai (吳斯懷) to the fourth position on the party list.  This move by Wu has been deeply unpopular with nearly everyone.  This article suggests that the Huang Fu Hsing have split into pro-Wu and pro-Han camps. It acknowledges however that it’s unclear how big each side is.

The third article says that Han is confident that he can breach the “Eric Chu threshold” of 3.81 million votes that Chu garnered in the 2016 presidential race.  This suggests his target is to beat Chu’s total, which would suggest his is more powerful than Chu?

In the fourth article, Mirror alleges that party bigshots have switched sides to Han.  It cites the easy with which he attracted the support of big local patronage faction figures like Yen Ching-piao (顏清標) and Fu Kun-chi (傅崐萁) for his presidential run.  I’m unclear how strongly they will continue to support him if his presidential campaign goes down in flames, but the article seems to suggest they’re in the bag for Han.

Finally, in the fifth article, it notes that legislative candidates are dodging the deeply unpopular Wu Sz-huai (吳斯懷).

Could Han still have enough clout to run for KMT chair again following a disastrous loss in the presidential race?  History suggests yes, after the last race a candidate so bad the KMT replaced her mid-campaign, Hung Hsiu-chu, took over as party chair after the election.  On the DPP side current President Tsai Ing-wen (I) lost two races in a row, including one for president in 2012, but continued to be called back to serve as party chair (three times total) until she resigned in the aftermath of last November’s disastrous losses in the local elections.  And the passion of Han’s supporters may remain a force to be reckoned with.

If there is a rematch for the party chair between Han and Wu, it will be another chapter in a very weird relationship.  Initially it appears that Wu banished Han to no-hope Kaohsiung to run for mayor there as punishment for his temerity in challenging him for the party chair position.  In Han’s ultimately wild ride to victory, during the last few weeks of the mayor election Wu was sidelined and effectively banished to Taipei and out of the campaign materials for the races outside of places like Kinmen and Taipei, while Han campaigned with Hou You-yi, Lu Shiow-yen and KMT heavyweight Wang Jin-pyng.  Then Wu, moving to outmaneouver Wang and undermine Wang’s run at the presidency, Wu lined himself up with Han, bending the rules to bring him in as the presidential candidate–even sacrificing his own hopes to make a run.

It looks like they are heading towards being adversaries once again.

Image from Wu Den-yih’s Facebook.

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