In a move that some found shocking and others considered inevitable, the ruling KMT convened a special party congress on October 17 to replace its candidate for the 2016 presidential election, Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu, with New Taipei City Mayor and party chairman Eric Chu.
The dramatic turn of events had been building for months, with Hung’s many controversial statements on cross-Strait relations and other subjects, and her abrupt break in campaigning in September to meditate, combining to leave her badly trailing the DPP’s Tsai Ing-wen in all polls. Some polls even had her running last in a three-way race that also includes James Soong of the People First Party. Chu had long been expected to run for the KMT but had demurred, stating that he had pledged to complete his second term as New Taipei City mayor, leaving Hung as the only entrant in the KMT’s primary election this spring.
But after the KMT was trounced in last November’s local elections and with Hung’s candidacy in doubt, Chu found himself unable to turn down the party’s demands, especially with pressure building from KMT candidates for legislative seats who feared they would go down in defeat without a strong figure at the head of the ticket. In the end, 812 of the 891 representatives at the KMT congress voted to rescind Hung’s candidacy and replace her with Chu, who then took a leave of absence from the New Taipei City government to focus on his presidential campaign, temporarily handing over the reins to Deputy Mayor Hou You-yi. Chu was quoted in the press as saying: “I want to tell every Taiwanese and resident of (New Taipei City) I am doing this because I have to protect the R.O.C. we love, the democratic politics we have fought to preserve, and the our healthy democracy of checks and balances.”
Hung Hsiu-chu had been scheduled to speak at an AmCham Taipei luncheon on November 5. After the change in candidates, that event was cancelled and an invitation was extended to Eric Chu to speak at a later date.