Former vice-premier and New Taipei mayor Eric Chu Li-luan will run for the top job of Taiwan’s main opposition party next month, pledging to regain the power the Kuomintang lost in 2016. Launching his challenge to KMT chairman Johnny Chiang on Monday, Chu said the party was gradually losing its international visibility, its communication channels with the Chinese mainland, public trust and voter support. He said the KMT had to change to have any hope for the future. “Many friends are worried that if we do not make any changes the KMT will not be able to return to power and worse even it might lose the upcoming 2022 [local government] elections,” Chu said. Taiwan’s spike in coronavirus cases may threaten ruling DPP’s chances in elections next year He said the KMT won 14 of the 22 cities and counties in the 2018 local government polls but failed to use that advantage to boost its popularity and support, resulting in “one-party authoritarian” rule by the Democratic Progressive Party and misery for the public. “Facing such a difficult time and as a KMT member, I cannot evade my responsibility. For this, I officially announce my bid to compete in the party chairman race,” Chu said. He said the KMT needed an effective leader with cabinet and local government experience to lead the party back to power. “In the face of the [complex] international situation and cross-strait stand-off, we must stick to our position that the Republic of China [Taiwan’s official title] is free and democratic. We must also further strengthen our trust and communication with the United States, Japan and other important international friends,” Chu said. “We must also restore the conciliatory cross-strait interaction and exchange platform, uphold cross-strait peace and promote security and stability in the region.” Sherman talks signal firm US support for Taiwan but ‘no blank cheque’ Regarded as an efficient legislator and a capable administrator in his stints as Taoyuan county magistrate, vice-premier and New Taipei mayor, the 60-year-old Chu is seen as a top challenger to Chiang. Chu was once seen as a successor to former president Ma Ying-jeou and was elected unopposed as KMT chairman in 2015. He ran in the 2016 presidential elections as a last-minute replacement for KMT candidate Hung Hsiu-chu, then legislature deputy speaker, after the party lost faith in Hung’s ability to win the race. Chu lost in 2016 and stood down as chairman. He continued as New Taipei mayor until finishing his maximum two four-year term in 2018. Former Taiwan KMT leader plans to get Covid-19 shot on mainland China A KMT official, who declined to be named, said Chu had support from older generation leaders like former vice-president Lien Chan and ex-president Ma as well as the backing of younger members who thought it was important to maintain cross-strait communication. “Chu is expected to create a serious challenge to Chiang as the latter’s policy to localise the party and win Taiwan-centric support has been criticised by a number of the party’s members,” the official said. He said Beijing had reservations about Chiang, believing he was seeking to borrow from the DPP in Taiwanisation of the party. Beijing has halted annual cross-strait forums between the two parties since Chiang was elected chairman in 2020. The official said that if Lien’s son Sean Lien Sheng-wen did not throw his hat in the ring for the September 25 race, the two men could run together. Taiwan opposition KMT leader says he’s in no rush for Beijing meeting So far, four KMT members have nominated for the chairmanship of Taiwan’s largest opposition party. In addition to Chiang and Chu, Chang Ya-chung, president of the NGO Sun Yat-sen School and former Changhua county magistrate Cho Po-yuan, have announced their bids to run. Popular talk show host Jaw Shaw-kong, who announced his bid earlier this year, declared in April that he would not vie after failing to meet KMT qualifications to run.