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Thursday, February 29, 2024

The race

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“The race for Jan. 13, 2024 will tighten, and a unity momentum could come about, altering the present course of public opinion in Taiwan”

Jan. 13, 2024 is when Taiwan elects a new president and a new ruling party or coalition.

As of this writing, the protagonists are: Lai Ching-te, the current vice president and former mayor of Tainan, of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP); Hou You-ih of the Kuomintang (KMT), mayor of New Taipei City and former director general of the Taiwan police department; Ko Wen-je, of the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), a former two-term mayor of the capital Taipei; and Guo Tai-ming, better known as Terry Gou, the billionaire founder and until recently chairman of Hon Hai Precision, better known as Foxconn Electronics, the lead manufacturer of Apple products.

The elections commission has declared Friday, Nov. 24, as deadline for parties and individuals to finalize their tickets, while recent poll surveys indicate a plurality win for DPP’s Lai, unless the opposition would unite behind one unified ticket.

By opposition, pollsters mean KMT’s Hou and TPP’s Ko. If that should materialize, the run of Gou is likely to peter out, and, as in past tries, he is expected to support the unified ticket against the ruling DPP.

Up until Tsai Ing-wen, the economist who made it to the presidency in 2016, Taipei mayors had been clinching Taiwan’s leadership position.

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There is a straight road, Ren-ai, that connects the Taipei City Hall in Xing-yi to the presidential palace in Zhongzheng district, from east to west. Ren-ai road is Taipei’s major arterial road that begins in City Hall and ends in the presidential palace.

Ren-ai is pinyin for charity and compassion, and Japanese for love.

Tsai Ing-wen demolished that lore, and started an eight-year reign characterized by a most contentious relationship with the People’s Republic of China, now Asia’s prime geo-political hot spot.

Taiwan’s fate took center stage in the last APEC summit in San Francisco, where a détente took place between China’s Xi Jinping and America’s Joe Biden, marked by Xi’s now famous speech before the titans of American business, where he declared “China is willing to be a partner and friend with the United States…(based) on mutual respect, peaceful co-existence and win-win cooperation.”

Harping on a long history of friendly people-to-people relations with Americans, Xi pointedly used World War II in the Pacific as example, where hundreds of thousands of Chinese lives were lost in America’s war against imperial Japan.

This was a time when the Nationalist Kuomintang held sway over China with American support, and the incident Xi used was one where America’s Flying Tigers of the legendary Gen. Claire Chennault, a Chiang Kai-shek friend, fighting the Japanese air force under Lt. Col. James Doolittle, were rescued by Chinese troops and civilians after the attack at Pearl Harbor.

To many observers, and through words given to Biden in their Filoli tete-a-tete, Xi’s recall of that WW II incident was made to assure Americans they should not fight over Taiwan, which the Chinese president kept repeating as “an internal matter.”

Now how does this impact on Taiwan and its forthcoming elections?

As we write, both KMT and the TPP are in the frenetic stages of coming up with a solidarity ticket against the DPP.

Just before the APEC meet in California, agreement was made to conduct jointly commissioned poll surveys to read the electorate’s mind on whether a Hou-Ko or a Ko-Hou ticket would have the best chances of winning come January, a scant 60 days away.

But after the surveys showed a Ko-Hou ticket was slightly stronger than the other way around, sour note happened when Ko declared he was determined to run as president only.

In the latest round of talks where former president Ma Ying-jeou and KMT Chair Eric Chu are quite active in forging a unity ticket, KMT’s Hou declared he would “wait until the last minute” to break the deadlock.

A proposed review of the nine poll results analyzing the best combination would be publicly broadcast to gain public trust, where Hou who has yet to choose a vice-presidential candidate, stated he was willing to slide down to the second slot if the poll review process determined Ko has better chances of winning.

Ko is particularly strong with young voters and could break the DPP hold on this vital demographic sector, while the KMT has an extensive political machinery with majority of Taiwan’s LGUs having elected their candidates last year.

The unity ticket, if it should materialize, can best be forged by the taipans of Taiwan’s economy who are wary of a Chinese invasion if the DPP continued in power.

Behind the scenes maneuvering can be expected from both China and the US, which is represented by the American Institute in Taiwan, its de facto embassy.

Now that Xi has openly declared a non-confrontational, non-invasive Taiwan position, forging a unity team to defeat the openly pro-American and anti-One China, Two Systems principle, signal has been made to Taiwanese voters, especially those who can influence both parties – the funders and political leaders.

Will unity be forged at the last minute?

If unity between Ko and Hou, between KMT and the TPP materializes, the road to lessening Taiwan Strait tensions and the potential road to peace in our time, which impacts as well on our country, could become likely.

The race for Jan. 13, 2024 will tighten, and a unity momentum could come about, altering the present course of public opinion in Taiwan.

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