Eric Chu to run for president

After stepping down as mayor of New Taipei on Dec. 25 as his second term came to an end, Eric Chu (朱立倫) announced he will run for president in 2020. (NOWnews)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Eric Chu (朱立倫), who stepped down as mayor of New Taipei on Dec. 25 as his second term came to an end, has announced he will run for president in 2020 as had been expected.

The announcement came after Hou You-yi (侯友宜), the former deputy mayor of New Taipei, was inaugurated earlier that day as the city’s mayor to take over from Chu, who had been in the position for eight years.

Hou of the Kuomintang (KMT) defeated Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) by a 57 percent to 43 percent margin in local elections held Nov. 24. Taiwan has term limits, preventing Chu from running for a third term.

Chu’s bid for the presidency was widely expected, especially as polls indicate he is currently the most popular of the KMT figures most likely to run for the office.

He had been repeatedly asked in recent days whether he was planning a presidential bid, and he said Monday he would make his plans known the following day.

In explaining his decision, Chu said his supporters had high hopes he would vie for the presidency in 2020, especially after being handily defeated by then-DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in the 2016 race.

He was also the chairman of the KMT at the time, but stepped down from the position after losing the election with only 31 percent of the vote, compared to 56.1 percent for Tsai and 12.8 percent for third-party candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜).

“I have a clear goal,” Chu said. “I will work hard for the people in Taiwan.” Because the KMT has yet to set in motion a primary to determine its presidential nominee, Chu said, he will spend time traveling around Taiwan to listen and learn.

“I want to meet people from all walks of life and listen to them,” Chu said. “I hope I will work with the public to identify the problems Taiwan is facing and find solutions to them.” Chu said he was grateful to voters in New Taipei for giving him the opportunity to run the most populous city in Taiwan for eight years.

“I’m willing to share the experience I gained as New Taipei mayor with people in other parts of the country,” he said.

“I’m also planning to go abroad in the future, to help Taiwan align itself more closely with the international community and become more competitive in global markets,” Chu added.

After passing the mayoral seal to Hou, many New Taipei employees gathered at City Hall to say goodbye to Chu, with some even greeting him as “president.” In addition to Chu, several KMT heavyweights such as Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), former Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and even former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) are believed to also be interested in running for the party’s presidential nomination.

By Sunrise Huang and Frances Huang