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Politics

Taipei mayor launches new party but is mum on presidential bid

Foxconn's Terry Gou a no-show at rally amid speculation of solo run for office

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je launched a new party but did not say whether he will run for president of Taiwan.

TAIPEI -- Ko Wen-je, the mayor of Taiwan's capital city, held a rally here Tuesday to inaugurate a new party, vowing to "change the political culture" in the self-ruled island but prolonging the uncertainty over whether he will run in next January's presidential election.

Ko's Taiwan People's Party enters the island's two-party system dominated by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and the main opposition Kuomintang.

The Taipei mayor blamed Taiwan's economic and diplomatic troubles on the two parties' constant struggle for power. He said his new party is "not a political party" but would "pursue Taiwan's interests."

Ko has reportedly reached out to billionaire Terry Gou, the founder of iPhone assembler Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, to work with his new party. Gou, who appears to be weighing an independent run for the presidency after losing a bid for the Kuomintang nomination, did not attend Tuesday's rally.

Some observers see Ko's new party as a launchpad for his own presidential campaign. Ko has indicated that he will make his intentions known around early September.

A surgeon by profession who describes himself as a political novice, Ko seems to be angling for millennials and voters without ties to either major party.

His past comments appear to put him on the Beijing-leaning side of Taiwan's political spectrum. Ko, who has been mayor of the capital since 2014, did not mention the self-ruled island's relations with mainland China during Tuesday's rally.

If Ko declares a presidential bid, he would disrupt what is emerging as a faceoff between incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party and Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu of the Kuomintang.

Meanwhile, Gou, who sent a congratulatory flower wreath to the rally, is speculated to be weighing an independent run for the presidency after breaking with the Kuomintang.

While Ko and Gou have been said to be considering some sort of alliance, their individual ambitions for the presidency may stand in the way of a deal between the two men.

Ko said his new party would back candidates in January's legislative elections.

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