China’s relations are at stake as Taiwan’s opposition splits in a dramatic dispute

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwanese opposition parties seeking closer ties with China registered separate presidential candidates on Friday after a major split, potentially paving the way for the ruling party, which has defied pressure from Beijing, to remain in power.

The January 13 elections are being held at a time when China, which considers Taiwan its territory, is intensifying its military and political pressure to force the island to accept its sovereign claims.

The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and the smaller Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), both fighting for better relations with China, have agreed to work together against the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), but have made no progress on plans for a ticket. Unified presidency. .

China, which has portrayed the election as a choice between “peace and war,” believes the Democratic Progressive Party and its presidential candidates are dangerous separatists and has rejected offers of talks.

Late Thursday, the KMT pulled out of last-minute talks with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, held in front of reporters in a hotel conference room and shown live on television, after failing to reach an agreement.

The talks were mediated by the billionaire founder of Foxconn (2317.TW), Apple’s main supplier, Terry Gou, who was running as an independent candidate.

In one of the most dramatic moments, KMT presidential candidate Ho Yu-ae read a private text message from TPP candidate Ko Wen-ji, in which Ko said Go needed to “find a reason” to withdraw from the presidential race.

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Both Ho and Ko announced their nominees on Friday morning – Ho choosing fiery media personality Gou Shao-kung, while Ko of the smaller Trans-Pacific Partnership party chose one of the party’s legislators, Cynthia Wu, whose family is a major shareholder of Shin Kong Group. .

Joe, who was widely expected to withdraw from the race for president after the collapse of opposition talks, confirmed he did so just three hours before the deadline to register his candidacy with the Election Commission.

“Stability in the Taiwan Strait”

While introducing Gao, Hu pledged to achieve “stability in the Taiwan Strait and safety for Taiwan, which will reassure the whole world.”

In contrast to the chaos in the opposition camp, the United Progressive Democratic Party (UDP) was on the verge of campaigning, registering its presidential and vice-presidential candidates on Tuesday.

Huang Kui-po, a professor of diplomacy at National Chengchi University in Taipei and former deputy secretary-general of the Kuomintang, said the opposition hopes for “positive changes” such as the DPP’s internal scandals before election day that they can exploit.

“There will be a big uphill battle between the two opposition parties,” he told Reuters.

Taiwan’s Vice President, Lai Ching-te, of the Democratic Progressive Party, has been consistently ahead in opinion polls.

On Friday, his campaign team called on the opposition to “quickly present detailed policies” so that the elections can “return to normal”.

Speaking at a campaign event late Thursday, Lai talked about his team’s busy schedule, discussed politics with voters and the media, and leveled sharp criticism at the division in the opposition.

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“Do we dare hand over the task of running the country to these people?” he asked. Lai said. “Of course this isn’t okay.”

But he said that he was not satisfied with his achievements despite the division in the opposition, referring to the 11 events he attended that day.

“Is this elected while lying down?” Lai added, referring to previous comments by opposition politicians that their failure to unify their ranks would ensure Lai’s easy victory.

Taiwan’s stock market mostly ignored the impact of the ongoing political drama, although travel-related plays eased on concerns that relations with China will not improve and Chinese tourists will not return to Taiwan.

The Tourism and Hospitality sub-index (.THOI) closed 3.2% lower on Friday, compared to a flat benchmark index (.TWII).

(Reporting by Yimou Li and Sarah Wu; Reporting by Mohammed for the Arabic Bulletin) Additional writing and reporting by Ben Blanchard; (Reporting by Roger Tong) Editing by Lincoln Feast and Gerry Doyle

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Yimu Li is a senior Reuters correspondent who covers all things Taiwan, including sensitive relations between Taiwan and China, China’s military aggression, and Taiwan’s key role as a global power in semiconductors. A three-time SOPA award winner, his reporting from Hong Kong, China, Myanmar and Taiwan over the past decade includes Myanmar’s crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, the Hong Kong protests, and Taiwan’s battle against China’s multi-front campaigns to assimilate the island.

Sarah Wu is a Taiwanese correspondent based in Taipei, reporting on technology and politics. Previously, she covered political and general news in Hong Kong. She was born in Fujian, raised in Ontario and graduated from Harvard.

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