Taipei Mayor Plans to Shake Up Taiwan’s Politics With New Party

(Bloomberg) -- The mayor of Taipei City plans to establish a new political party, a move that could throw Taiwanese politics into turmoil five months before a crucial presidential election.

Mayor Ko Wen-je, a political independent, aims to set up his own party in a bid to shake up Taiwan’s politics, he said at a briefing in Taipei on Thursday. The move is seen as a precursor to Ko announcing a run for Taiwan’s highest office in January’s election, potentially jeopardizing President Tsai Ing-wen’s chances of remaining in power.

Taipei Mayor Plans to Shake Up Taiwan’s Politics With New Party

“We’d like to provide options for people other than pan blue or pan green,” Ko said, referring to the colors of the opposition Kuomintang and ruling Democratic Progressive Party. “The main thinking is to pursue the well-being of the people.”

The mayor’s office in Taipei, which is Taiwan’s capital and has a population of 2.7 million, has previously been a springboard to the presidency. Ko said his party would be called the Taiwan People’s Party.

Ko’s entry into the presidential race would make January’s election the most hotly contested since the Democratic Progressive Party’s Chen Shui-bian emerged victorious from a three-way battle for the presidency in 2000. Tsai faces a tough battle to overcome the firebrand mayor of Kaohsiung, Han Kuo-yu, running on behalf of the KMT.

The outcome of the election will determine if Taiwan continues Tsai’s policy of aligning with the U.S., Japan and other liberal democracies or moving closer to Beijing under a China-friendly KMT administration.

A Ko candidacy is seen as being more damaging to Tsai than Han. The president trails Han, 35% to 38%, according to a public opinion poll in the Apple Daily newspaper Wednesday. If Ko entered the race, he would likely sap more of Tsai’s support than Han’s. The poll shows Ko garnering 23% of the vote, compared with Tsai’s 27% and Han’s 33%.

Ko said Thursday he will decide in September whether to launch a presidential bid. His political party will hold it’s first preparatory meeting on Aug. 6, Ko’s 60th birthday. The Ministry of the Interior’s Department of Civil Affairs confirmed it has received the initial paperwork needed to establish a party.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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