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Populist Mayor Is Picked to Run Against Taiwan’s President



Mr. Han has promoted the view that Taiwan and China belong to the same country, and had offered a view that closer ties with China would lift Taiwan’s economy. His tone has changed, however, in the wake of the recent wave of large protests in Hong Kong, where residents have demonstrated against a bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China and against police abuses during the protests.

In June, shortly after one of the biggest protest marches in Hong Kong, Mr. Han said that if elected president, Taiwan would only become subjected to rule under China’s “one country, two systems” proposal “over my dead body.”

Mr. Gou has been critical of the support Mr. Han has received from what many Taiwanese call the “red media” — media outlets that are more sympathetic to Beijing — led by local outlets belonging to the Want Want Group, which has often been critical of the outspoken tycoon.

There has been widespread speculation that Mr. Gou may begin a presidential campaign as an independent. Although he appears to have lost convincingly to Mr. Han, the nature of the public poll, which also surveyed nonparty members, led to suspicion that supporters of Ms. Tsai said they backed Mr. Han, viewing him as a weaker opponent for Ms. Tsai than Mr. Gou.

In addition to a possible independent bid by Mr. Gou, Taipei’s independent mayor, Ko Wen-je, may also announce his candidacy for January’s election. Should they both join the race, it would most likely benefit Ms. Tsai, since they, along with Mr. Han, are seen as more China friendly than Ms. Tsai, and would very likely split voters who favor closer ties with China.

Despite his victory, Mr. Han faces challenges within his own party, the Kuomintang. Having campaigned as the “president of the common people” and promising to make Taiwanese get rich — without offering details on how he intends to do so — he will now need to win over the party elite.

“Well-educated Kuomintang elites may not want to openly support Han,” Mr. Wang said. “He needs to focus on issues that those elites will want to work on with him.”

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