Taiwan prosecutors said yesterday they were investigating claims the embattled ruling Kuomintang (KMT) tried to bribe unpopular presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu to step down. It is the latest setback for the KMT which is widely tipped to lose the presidential elections in January. The party is in disarray after endorsing pro-Beijing Hung in July to run for the leadership despite her conservative views that fly in the face of public sentiment as fears grow over Beijing’s influence on the island. Hung is trailing behind the candidate of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party, Dr Tsai Ing-wen, in the polls, but has refused to heed calls to stand aside. A DPP legislator filed a complaint to prosecutors last week, alleging KMT chairman Eric Chu Li-luan had offered Hung benefits to persuade her to quit the presidential race, violating election laws. The complaint by Chen Ting-fei says Chu asked Hung to step down on three separate occasions, citing media reports. Chu violated the presidential election act by “offering bribes or other undue benefits” to persuade Hung to abandon her campaign, according to a copy of the complaint. No original evidence was given by Chen. Unsourced local media reports have said Hung demanded NT$500 million (HK$119 million) to step down as candidate. “We’ve received the case and should open the investigation today,” Kuo Wen-tung, director of the special investigation division of the Supreme Prosecutors Office, said yesterday. “If during the course of the investigation we need to summon Chu, we will do so,” Kuo said. The KMT and Hung have both denied any bribes changed hands. Hung has also denied she demanded money to end her campaign. The KMT suffered its worst defeat yet in local elections last year, with its Beijing-friendly policy a key factor. Party big-hitters hung back from the presidential nomination in the face of a likely loss, leaving wildcard Hung to take the reins. The KMT has called an emergency congress on Saturday to vote on whether Hung should be replaced. Chu, currently mayor of New Taipei City, is expected to be nominated instead. “This is a critical moment of survival or death for the KMT,” he said at a party committee meeting.