TAIPEI -- Taiwan's ruling Nationalists may be facing their worst crisis in decades. Party lawmakers fear presidential hopeful Hung Hsiu-chu's pro-Beijing stance will not only cause the Nationalist Party to lose its hold on the presidency but also its longstanding majority in parliament.
Presidential and parliamentary voting takes place in January. If voters replace the Nationalists -- now a distinct possibility amid the public's growing distrust of Beijing -- it will be the first time for the Nationalist Party to cede control of both the executive and legislative branches since Chiang Kai-shek and his troops lost the Chinese mainland to the Communist Party in a civil war and retreated to Taiwan in 1949.
Hung, the 67-year-old deputy speaker of Taiwan's parliament, is poised to become the Nationalists' official presidential candidate during a party conference in July. She won a primary on Sunday by passing the 30% support threshold. She is nicknamed "Little Chili Pepper" for her often blunt and controversial statements.
Over the past two months, she has said both Taiwan and China belong to the same country and voiced strong opposition to Taiwan independence, calling it "separatism," Beijing's favored term. Once elected, she said, she would sign a peace agreement with China, something many consider the first step to political integration between the island and mainland.
However, some party lawmakers worry that Hung's pro-China stance, disdained by the majority of Taiwanese voters, will further dim the Nationalists' already gloomy election outlook.
"Hung has shown a tendency to desire eventual unification with China," a Nationalist lawmaker said. "However, 60% to 70% of young Taiwanese support independence, while the older generation wants to at least uphold the status quo. Nominating her means we will fight very difficult battles."
The lawmaker declined to be named.
"There is no way our party will be able to maintain the majority in the legislature," another Nationalist lawmaker said, noting how unpopular the party's China-friendly faction is with voters.
No undermining Taiwan
Hung was the only politician who ran in the Nationalist primary. Heavyweights like Chairman Eric Chu and legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng were reluctant to enter the race due to the long odds they face against the main opposition pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, widely known as the DPP.
The Nationalist Party in November suffered a rout in key mayoral elections. At the time, voters shunned the party's China-friendly platform, which they saw as coddling big companies while undermining Taiwan sovereignty.
It is now generally expected that DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen will become Taiwan's first female president.
While Tsai supports ongoing exchanges with China and is vowing to maintain the status quo in cross-strait relations, she also insists that Taiwan's democracy and sovereignty cannot be undermined in any way as Taipei and Beijing strengthen ties.