Sean Lien, son of KMT honorary chairman, wins Taipei mayoral primary
Kuomintang expected to endorse candidate for Taipei's top elected post, but November poll could see close race against popular rival
Sean Lien Sheng-wen, son of Kuomintang honorary chairman Lien Chan, has won a primary election to become the Taiwanese ruling party's election candidate for mayor of Taipei, a post seen as a stepping stone towards the presidency.
He is expected to be formally named this week as the KMT's candidate.
But there is no guarantee his comfortable win in the KMT primary election will be repeated at the November 29 polls, with various surveys showing Lien ahead of Ko Wen-je, a popular doctor and independent candidate, by just 4-5 percentage points, local media and analysts said.
Lien, 44, beat his main opponent, legislator Ting Shou-chung, 59, by 13 percentage points to secure his candidacy.
"I will never let my supporters down if elected mayor of Taipei," Lien said yesterday after the KMT announced the primary's results.
He called for party unity so that the KMT could continue to control the capital, Taipei - one of the three KMT strongholds along with the central city of Taichung and nearby New Taipei City.
"A divided party would mean disaster" in the November polls, Lien warned, adding that he had sought conciliation with Ting.
The KMT, headed by mainland-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou, is reported to be racked by infighting that threatens to divide the party and reduce its chances in the so-called seven-in-one local government and council elections, including for Taipei mayor, in late November.
The infighting was reported to have been caused by Ma's attempt to revoke the post of parliamentary speaker of long-time party rival Wang Jin-pyng. Accusing Wang of influence-peddling, Ma instructed the KMT disciplinary committee in September to expel Wang, who later took the case to court and won.
Despite calls by some KMT legislators for party unity, Ma last month insisted on launching an appeal against the district court's ruling in favour of Wang.
Lien yesterday thanked those who supported him in the primary and said he would do all he could to canvass further support ahead of the mayoral race.
The primary saw Lien garner 10,647 votes against 4,765 for Ting, who had sought the KMT nomination for the mayoral poll at least three times.
Legislator Tsai Cheng-wen, an ally of Lien, still got 148 votes despite withdrawing from the race a day before the primary.
Another aspirant, Taipei city councillor Chung Hsiao-ping, took just 107 votes in the race, which saw turnout of just 41 per cent of Taipei's 37,860 eligible KMT voters.
The KMT primary comprises voting by members (30 per cent of the results) and a public opinion poll (70 per cent) conducted several days ago.
Lien won 40 per cent of support from eligible Taipei voters in the opinion survey, compared with Ting's 37 per cent, but his comfortable lead in voting by members allowed him to beat Ting easily.
Meanwhile, the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party - which has been asked by some members to support independent Ko in the race - is expected to announce its nominee by mid-June.
The latest opinion survey by the United Daily News in Taipei recently showed Lien led Ko 45-39 per cent if the two were to contest the mayoral election.