Taiwan's ruling KMT party has new chairman
                 English.news.cn | 2015-01-17 18:51:22 | Editor: An

Eric Chu was elected chairman of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) in an uncontested election on Jan. 17, 2015.

An undated photo shows Taiwan's New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu. Eric Chu was elected chairman of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) in an uncontested election on Jan. 17, 2015. (Xinhua)

TAIPEI, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- Taiwan's New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu was elected chairman of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) in an uncontested election on Saturday.

About 56 percent of the 349,374 eligible voters turned out to cast their ballots. Chu won 196,065 valid votes, or 99.61 percent of the votes, the highest since the chairmanship election was first open to party members in 2001, according to the KMT Central Committee.

Chu will take office as chairman next Monday.

The former KMT leader Ma Ying-jeou stepped down as chairman on Dec. 3 to take responsibility for the party's defeat in the Nov. 29 local government elections, handing over the reins to its first vice chairman Wu Den-yih.

According to the party's charter, the interim chief is tasked with organizing a new election for a replacement to serve out the predecessor's remaining term within three months of a chairmanship vacancy.

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China's (CPC) Central Committee, congratulated Eric Chu soon after his success in election.

Xi said in a message that he hoped the two parties, for the cardinal interest of the Chinese nation, can continue working together to maintain the common political commitments of upholding the 1992 Consensus and opposing "Taiwan independence."

Xi said the CPC and KMT have advanced mainland-Taiwan relations toward peaceful development, which have resulted in benefits for the people of both sides. He hoped the two parties strengthen communication and deepen mutual trust to carry on the peaceful trend in November.

In his reply to Xi's message, Chu thanked Xi and said that the two parties had consolidated mutual trust on the basis of the 1992 Consensus .He expected the two parties would continue to expand exchanges, strive for mutual benefits and promote perpetual peace and prosperity across the Taiwan Strait.

"When the KMT faces its most grimm time, I can't just walk away from the party. Instead I must run for party chief in a bid to carry out sweeping and profound reform and revive the spirit of the party," Chu said on his Facebook account when he announced his running for the chairmanship soon after the KMT's crushing loss in local elections in November.

However, Chu did not make a speech after being elected as the party chief.

UNCHANGED MAINLAND POLICY?

Experts believe the Chu is likely to follow Ma's policy on developing cross-Strait relations.

Zhu Songling, a Taiwan affairs professor with Beijing Union University, said Chu's reply to Xi demonstrated his recognition of the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations.

From his past remarks, it can also be perceived that upholding the 1992 consensus, opposing "Taiwan independence" and advocating strengthened cross-Strait exchanges and win-win cooperation are Chu's basic viewpoints on mainland-Taiwan issues, said Zhu.

In 2009, Eric Chu attended the first Cross-Strait Economic, Trade and Culture Forum in mainland city of Xiamen as the vice KMT chairman, saying that the people of the two sides would never hope to be isolated because of misunderstanding, conflicts and ideological differences and he hoped the two could shelve disputes and cooperate for development.

The KMT's mainland policies have helped gain support since the party resumed ruling over the island in 2008 and the peaceful situation has resulted in obvious benefits for the two, Zhu pointed out. He expected that the new KMT chairman would continue to carry on the policies.

Cheng You-ping, head of the political and economic research center of Taiwan's "National" Taipei University, also believe unchanged policies that contribute to peaceful development of cross-Strait relations would be the "only choice" for the KMT to turn the table in future elections.

"Chu must let the Taiwan people believe that his party's active role in dealing with issues on cross-Strait relations will bring more benefits to them," Zheng said.

Regarding the personal styles of Chu, Su Jia-hong from the Taiwan Fooyin University, said Chu may be more flexible and pragmatic in handling cross-Strait issues. He said he expects Chu, as both the KMT chairman and the New Taipei City mayor, to make some breakthrough in cross-Strait affairs.

MORE TO BE DONE

The 53-year-old Eric Chu is confronted with severe challenges in revitalizing the century-old KMT party, such as handling party's assets in a transparent manner, recruiting young members, and nominating the party's candidate for the Taiwan leader election in 2016.

Chu himself will not run for Taiwan leader in 2016.

Professor Zhu hopes Chu will make progress in reaching peace agreement and establishing mutual military trust mechanism with the mainland,

Chu also needs to settle the doubts among some people over the future of Taiwan-mainland relations, especially among the young people, which has been reflected in massive protests over a cross-Strait service trade pact last year, according to Zhu Weidong, a professor with Taiwan Research Institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

Largely deemed as a boost to Taiwan's lackluster economy, the pact aims to open up 80 of the mainland's service sectors to Taiwan and 64 Taiwan service sectors to the mainland.

However, protests had been waved by college students, initially opposing what they saw as undemocratic tactics used by KMT to pass the pact in the legislative body. They later demanded the scrapping of the pact and supervision on future cross-Strait agreements.

The passing of the pact will become an important subject and a test for Chu, said Leng Bo, deputy head of the CASS Taiwan Research Institute.

But Su Jia-hong said he believe Chu is able to effectively convene and coordinate with the legislators from the KMT to push the passing of the pact.

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