Hardliner at helm of Taiwan’s new party says it won’t field presidential candidate

Lawrence Chung

Radical pro-independence activists have elected a Taiwan-centric pastor as chairman of the island’s new political party, in a move certain to split the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

Terence Lo, a hardliner from the green camp and pastor with the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, vowed that the Formosa Alliance, officially unveiled on Saturday, would not be absent in January’s legislative polls.

But the party has decided against fielding a presidential candidate in the 2020 race – to be run alongside the legislative elections – sparing President Tsai Ing-wen from a possible split in the pro-independence vote.

“We have decided not to put forward our own candidate this time to challenge President Tsai in the presidential election,” Lo said.

He added that the decision was taken to prevent the mainland-friendly opposition Kuomintang from capitalising on a potential split vote if the new party nominated a rival candidate against Tsai.

Terence Lo is a hardliner from the green camp and pastor with the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan. Photo: Lawrence Chung

“After all, the KMT is even worse in terms of its pro-China stand, which is unacceptable to the majority people in Taiwan,” he said.

“But we will have our own people running for at least 10 seats in the parliament.”

As to whether the new party could damage the DPP’s chances of retaining a parliamentary majority, Lo said the Formosa Alliance wanted to promote normalising Taiwan as an independent nation, which was in line with the original spirit of the DPP.

Shih Cheng-feng, who was named vice-chairman of the party, said the Formosa Alliance had not been formed to win votes from the DPP.

“We aim to woo back voters that the DPP lost in massive numbers during last year’s local government elections,” he said.

The DPP suffered it worst electoral defeat in November’s local polls, losing even its traditional stronghold in Kaohsiung when many voters – upset by Tsai’s poor performance on the economy and drastic labour and pension reforms – swung to the KMT, giving it control of 15 of the 22 cities and counties in Taiwan.

Shih said although the new party would not nominate a presidential candidate for 2020, it still planned to do so down the track.

According to its charter, the Formosa Alliance – which uses a historical name for the island – will push for the formation of a “Taiwan nation and new constitution to realise the public desire to join the United Nations and counter China’s attempt to annex Taiwan”.

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Yoshi Liu, a member of the party’s organising committee, said the DPP, which was founded in 1986, was no longer true to its origins and had “degenerated into a one-person party with a group of members fighting for their common interests”.

“Most importantly, we want to retrieve the founding spirit of the DPP,” he said, referring to the party’s original platform that called for independence for the self-ruled island.

The DPP shelved this platform in the late 1990s due to concerns about possible attacks from the mainland and argued that Taiwan was already a de facto independent state and did not need a formal declaration to this effect.

Beijing has long considered Taiwan a wayward province that must be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.

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