James Soong's role in Taiwan's presidential election is simply that of a spoiler

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 August, 2015, 1:35am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 August, 2015, 1:35am

Taiwan has set itself further apart as an Asian democracy with the decision of both leading political parties, the Democratic Progressive Party and the Kuomintang, to field women candidates for the presidential election next January. Moreover, one will be elected leader in her own right, and not through family connections to a former leader. Opinion polls say the election is DPP candidate Tsai Ing-wen's to lose, thanks to public disenchantment with weak governance and a lacklustre economy under President Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT. But a week is a long time in politics, let alone a few months , which is time enough for KMT nominee Hung Hsiu-chu to develop her own policies and contest the middle ground on domestic issues between the pro-unification KMT and independence-leaning DPP.

However, hers was always going to be an uphill task. And it has just been made a little steeper by the entry into the contest of a man who seems likely to act as a spoiler for Hung and boost her opponent's chances. James Soong Chu-yu, 73, three times defeated as presidential or vice-presidential candidate, is chairman of the People First Party, a splinter party he formed 15 years ago that has been siphoning off KMT members amid political infighting and divisive perceptions of creeping dependence on the mainland.

Beginning with the DPP's presidential election win in 2000, the once powerful KMT politician has split the party's vote and helped the chances of the DPP candidate, even though Soong and his party hold pro-unification views similar to those of the KMT. If Soong feels compelled to show he remains influential in pro-unification circles, he has every right to throw his hat in the ring. But in this case he has simply strengthened the hand of the likely winner and complicated the campaign of the KMT flag-bearer. Taiwan could have done without such a divisive distraction ahead of elections for both president and legislators and at an important juncture in closer relations with the mainland.