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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.

Photo CNA

Photo CNA

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.