Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party has ditched Hung Hsiu-chu as its candidate for the island’s presidential election in January 2016.
At an emergency congress, party members voted overwhelmingly to drop Hung Hsiu-chu following a series of poor ratings in opinion polls.
Hung Hsiu-chu will be replaced by the KMT’s chairman, Eric Chu.
Before the decision, the two favorites for the presidential poll were, for the first time, both women.
Hung Hsiu-chu, the deputy parliament speaker, was the KMT’s first female candidate. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate is Tsai Ing-wen, who lost in the presidential race in 2012.
Taiwan has never had a female president.
Hung Hsiu-chu’s approval ratings were lagging far behind those of Tsai Ing-wen – partly because she had lost support by advocating stronger ties with China at a time when some Taiwanese voters are wary about the island becoming too close to Beijing.
Eric Chu, the mayor of suburban New Taipei City who is considered a moderate on China, has more experience in governing, leading many party members to hope he will stand a better chance against Tsai Ing-wen, despite his late entry in the race.
The KMT suffered a crushing defeat in local elections in 2014.
Taiwan’s outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou resigned as party chairman after the poll, which was widely seen as a rejection of his push for close ties with Beijing.
China’s President Xi Jinping and the leader of Taiwan’s ruling party, Eric Chu, have held the highest level talks between the two sides in six years.
Nationalist Chairman, Eric Chu, was in Beijing for the meeting, a sign of warming relations between the sides.
Any rapprochement is controversial in Taiwan, which has seen protests over the prospect of closer ties.
Chinese nationalists fled to Taiwan in 1949 after a brutal civil war with the communists.
In the same time, China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province that will ultimately return.
Many Taiwanese oppose reunification and fear that growing economic dependency on Beijing could be the first step towards that outcome, correspondents say.
President Xi Jinping said during the meeting that China and Taiwan should settle political differences through consultation, but with Taiwan’s acceptance that it is part of China, according to Xinhua state news agency. He also said Beijing will make greater efforts to open up to Taiwan and help it to develop economically.
“The two sides can consult with each other on equal basis under the principle of <<one China>>, and reach a reasonable arrangement,” Xi Jinping said.
Taiwan’s Kuomintang (KMT) has seen its popularity decline and protests at home, dubbed the “Sunflower Movement”, over its warming ties with the Chinese Communist Party.
In March last year, hundreds of students occupied parliament for weeks to demonstrate against a trade pact that the KMT signed with China. Thousands rallied on the streets against the mainland.
Eric Chu’s party is nevertheless currently pushing to join China’s new development bank. Taiwan’s initial application to the bank was rejected by Beijing because of the name under which it applied, which implied it was an independent nation.
However, Beijing said it would welcome an application by Taiwan under an “appropriate” name.
The KMT had its worst-ever performance in local elections in November and the President Ma Ying-jeou stepped down as party chief, to be replaced by Eric Chu.
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