Taiwan’s opposition parties have agreed to run a joint campaign in January’s election, paving the way for a radical shakeup of the race.
Representatives of the Kuomintang and Taiwan People’s Party met Wednesday, with the talks centering around how to decide which of their two nominees should head a single ticket as the presidential candidate.
The parties, represented by KMT candidate Hou Yu-ih, the TPP’s Ko Wen-je, KMT Chairman Eric Chu and former President Ma Ying-jeou, agreed to collate the results of public and internal party polls conducted between Nov. 7 and Nov. 17. to determine which candidate has the highest chance of winning, according to a joint statement.
If the gap between the candidates’ aggregated polling results falls within the margin of error, Hou will be deemed the winner. A result will be announced on Saturday.
The two parties also agreed to form a joint government if they win the election.
A combined opposition campaign would reshape an election that could affect global geopolitics for years to come. Taiwan has been thrust to the forefront of increasingly fraught ties between China and the U.S.
Beijing sees the democratically ruled island as its territory and hasn’t ruled out using force to bring it under control. Washington’s policymakers have pledged to help Taiwan defend itself from any attack.
While Vice President Lai Ching-te, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s candidate, has consistently led opinion polls, a combined opposition campaign less than two months before polling day would pose a legitimate threat to his hopes of victory.
Wednesday’s talks were the culmination of months of on-and-off negotiations between the opposition hopefuls, who had previously stumbled over which one of the parties’ candidates should take top billing. Candidates have until Nov. 24 to formally register for the January election.
Lai has benefited so far from a divided opposition to lead most opinion polls. He had a 33% support rating, according to the latest TVBS survey, with Ko in second at 24% and Hou with 22%. Foxconn Technology Group founder Terry Gou had the backing of 8% of respondents.
An alliance between the KMT and the TPP could potentially leave Gou out in the cold after the independent presidential contender had also floated the idea of teaming up with Ko.
A spokesperson for Gou’s campaign said Monday he will wait to have discussions with Ko’s camp before deciding what to do next, the Taipei-based Liberty Times reported.