Taiwan presidential candidate seeks to win over youth vote

(From Bloomberg)

  • Chu pledges reforms of ruling party as opposition leads polls
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Taiwanese ruling party chairman Eric Chu won’t know for more than a month the results of his long-shot bid to win the island’s presidency, but he’s already discussing how his party can win back the youth vote after the election.

Eric Chu

Eric Chu

“We should do some reform,” Chu said on Friday in an interview at the Kuomintang’s party headquarters. “We should change our policy and try to get closer to the younger generation, to the people. And do a lot of change to make our policy more attractive.”

Chu, 54, trails opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen in the Jan. 16 race, with the opposition Democratic Progressive Party on course to win both the presidency and a legislative majority for the first time. The KMT is struggling to overcome scandals, economic stagnation and wariness about incumbent Ma Ying-jeou’s push to expand trade ties with mainland China, a policy many young Taiwanese feel has favored the business elite.

 Students opposed to a services trade pact brokered by Ma’s government with the Communist Party occupied Taiwan’s legislative chamber for weeks last year in what became known as the Sunflower Movement. Ma was later forced to hand the KMT leadership to Chu, the mayor of New Taipei, Taiwan’s most populous city, after suffering a record defeat in local elections held nationwide.

Singapore Meeting

Chu said he supported the direction of Ma’s rapprochement with the mainland, which led to the president’s historic meeting with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Singapore last month. If elected, Chu said he would repeat Ma’s summit with Xi and might even meet on the Chinese leader’s turf.

But Chu said changes were necessary to ease tensions, “especially complaints about those economic benefits not shared equally” with the younger generation. Some 52 percent of voters age 20 to 29 support Tsai’s DPP, compared with 19 percent for the KMT, according to a TVBS poll released last month.

“We have to take this response from the younger generation,” Chu said, adding “the DPP always successfully put the attack on the KMT, saying it’s too close to the mainland.”

Civil War

The two sides have been governed separately since 1949, when then-Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek fled across the Taiwan Strait during a civil war. Since the early 1990s they’ve slowly built economic ties under the so-called One China principle, with each side allowing the other to have a different idea about what that means. They’ve never signed a peace treaty and the mainland considers the island a breakaway province.

While the DPP’s charter officially supports independence, Tsai says she supports keeping the status quo with China. Ahead of a campaign rally outside Taipei on Saturday, Tsai told reporters she would “maintain a peaceful relationship with China” and provide a more efficient government for Taiwan.

Skepticism about ties with China has grown amid economic slowdowns on both sides, with the island lowering its growth projection to just over 1 percent this year, compared with about 7 percent on the mainland. Taiwan, which depends on China for 40 percent of its exports, has seen shipments tumble. Read more



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