Kuomintang party scion Sean Lien to run for Taipei mayor this year

Son of ruling party big Lien Chen seen as early favourite for post that often leads to presidency

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 February, 2014, 5:34pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 5:54pm

Sean Lien, the son of Kuomintang honorary chairman Lien Chan, has announced a bid to run for mayor of Taipei, a post seen as a stepping stone for ambitious politicians to become the island's top leader.

The race for Taipei mayor will be held on November 29 alongside six other local government elections. The polls are seen as a precursor to Taiwan's next presidential election in 2016.

"After some time of evaluation, I hereby formally announce my decision to join the Taipei mayoral election," Sean Lien said yesterday. "I will embark on an entirely different route in my life journey after this, but I am willing to take all that will come my way."

Lien, 44, is a member of the ruling KMT party's decision-making central standing committee. In November 2010, he narrowly survived a gun attack that took place on the eve of a municipal election.

Lien has kept the local news media guessing about his intentions to run for mayor since last year. The post is seen as a political proving ground for the presidency, as it is the route that former presidents Lee Teng-hui, Chen Shui-bian and the incumbent, Ma Ying-jeou, all took.

"I had to make sure I am healthy enough for this important job, that was why I had to wait for the entire report of my health check to be ready, and that came out only recently," he told a packed news conference.

Lien is popular within the KMT, especially with the younger generation, and has been tipped to win the mayor's race. But he will still have to take part in the KMT primary, which will pit him against at last three hopefuls - all incumbent legislators - to become the KMT nominee for the mayoral race.

Most opinion surveys show that Lien is by far the most likely to win, leading Ko Wen-je, an independent but popular physician at National Taiwan University Hospital. Ko was part of the medical team that saved Lien's life after the 2010 gun attack that saw a bullet pierce Lien's head and exit through his face.

So far, the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party has yet to select a candidate for the election or hold any primary to decide its nominee.

But pundits said Lien's billionaire family and his father's close ties with the mainland would make him a ready target for his opponents.

"I can't choose my parents," Lien said, adding that he would donate his entire salary to charity if he won the race.

Lien's father Lien Chan, who was a former vice-president, made history in 2005 after his fence-mending visit to Beijing as KMT head. Lien Chan met then Communist Party general secretary Hu Jintao to discuss reconciliation between the two former rivals.

The mainland and Taiwan had been hostile since 1949, but they have grown closer since 2008, when Ma became president and began engaging Beijing.