TAIPEI, Oct 7, 2015 (AFP) – Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang (KMT) Wednesday called an extraordinary congress over its unpopular presidential candidate as some in the deeply divided party said she should be ousted.
Known as “xiao-la-jiao” or “little hot pepper” for her straight-talking style, Hung Hsiu-chu is trailing behind opposition candidate Tsai Ing-wen in the polls.
After an initial surge of support, she has seen her popularity nosedive on concerns over her pro-China views, which fly in the face of public sentiment.
The KMT’s standing committee passed a motion Wednesday to hold the last-minute congress in response to members’ calls for Hung to be replaced.
“The purpose of the extraordinary congress is to find consensus, unity, in order to obtain victory,” said spokeswoman Lin Yi-hua.
“Our enemy is not within the party.”
The meeting will be held before the end of the month.
The KMT is struggling to win back public support after suffering its worst ever defeat in local elections last year, with its Beijing-friendly policy a key factor in the rout.
With the party widely predicted to be heading for defeat in January’s presidential vote, the KMT’s heavyweights sat on the sidelines during the nomination process, leaving unlikely Hung the only candidate.
She has refused to stand aside in the face of mounting criticism.
Local media have reported that party chairman Eric Chu is set to take over the candidacy, but Chu said he hoped the party would support Hung.
“Hung’s take on cross-strait policies… deviates from the view espoused by the KMT and from mainstream opinion,” Chu said at the standing committee meeting.
“We hope Hung can bring her views back in line with that of the KMT and win over the public,” he said.
Hung said calling the emergency congress was “unfair,” and criticised the party for not facing the root of its dwindling popularity.
“With just 100 days to go before elections… our party’s seniors and standing committee are calling for change, to attempt to force (me) out,” she said.
Taiwan split from China in 1949 after a civil war and is self-ruling, but Beijing still sees the island as a part of its territory awaiting reunification — by force if necessary.
The KMT espouses a “one China, different interpretation” model, tacitly agreed with Beijing and known as the “1992 consensus”, which avoids a declaration of independence but asserts the island’s sovereignty.
Hung, however, has historically taken a pro-unification stance.
After a public and political backlash she tried for a more moderate message but failed to galvanise support.
The presidential race had largely focused on Hung and Tsai of the Beijing-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).