Taiwan Opposition’s Talks on Joint Election Bid in Disarray

(Bloomberg) -- Overnight talks between Taiwan’s main opposition parties failed to come to an agreement, leaving their planned joint bid in the island’s upcoming presidential election at risk of breaking down Saturday.

Most Read from Bloomberg

Discussions between the Taiwan People’s Party and the Kuomintang through the night into Saturday did not yield any agreement on how to best interpret opinion poll results over which party’s candidate should lead the combined campaign as the presidential nominee. The talks faltered over how to calculate the survey margin of error.

This comes as a blow to the opposition parties, which had been scheduled to announce on Saturday morning if the TPP’s Ko Wen-je or the KMT’s Hou Yu-ih would lead a joint ticket. The two parties are planning to hold further talks on an alliance but nothing has yet been scheduled as of Saturday afternoon. Candidates have until Nov. 24 to register to take part in the January election.

A unity ticket by the KMT and the TPP would sharply increase their odds of success against the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. Without it, both opposition parties look destined to face defeat against Vice President Lai Ching-te, who has led polls for much of the campaign.

The talks have not entirely broken down. Ko called Hsiao Hsu-tsen, the head of former President Ma Ying-jeou’s foundation which is overseeing the talks, to say the two sides just need more time to come to an agreement.

Discussions have centered over how to collate and analyze recent opinion polls to determine which of the two parties’ candidates has the best chance of winning the Jan. 13 election. After more than five hours of negotiations through Friday night, the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement over which polls to take into consideration and how large the margin of error should be.

Ko had agreed that if he came out ahead in the polling results but his lead was within the margin of error, he would count that as a win for Hou.

“We are willing to continue negotiating but we want to win the election, not this election primary,” Ko said at a briefing Saturday. “If the KMT insists we agree to a margin of error of more than 6%, Hou might win this primary, but he wouldn’t win the election.”

Still, “anything is possible” before the registration deadline, he added.

KMT Chairman Eric Chu echoed the remarks, saying he still held out hopes for a joint ticket.

“How do we overcome these differences in opinion?” he said at a separate briefing Saturday. “If we keep the public at the forefront of our minds, we can overcome any problems. If we just care about our own interests, then all kinds of problems will emerge.”

Read More: Taiwan Opposition Set to Reveal Who Will Lead Joint Election Bid

An opposition alliance raises the odds of a more China-friendly government taking power from 2024.

Policymakers from Washington to Beijing are closely watching the outcome of the talks, which will shape a crucial election that could decide how tense the Taiwan Strait is for years to come. A more Beijing-friendly government in Taipei could ease a potential geopolitical flashpoint between the US and China.

Investors in Taiwanese assets will also be keeping an eye on how the talks progress over the weekend. Geopolitical risks have been an overhang on Taiwan’s markets, with investors fretting over the possibility of a military conflict between Taipei and Beijing. The benchmark Taiex Index rose and the local dollar strengthened in the past week as traders digested the news of a possible opposition tie-up.

--With assistance from Chien-Hua Wan.

(Adds detail on talks in the third paragraph.)

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.