With just three months until Taiwan chooses its next leader, the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) has called for an extraordinary general meeting to replace presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu.

KMT Chairman and New Taipei mayor Eric Chu launched an appeal to replace Hung in light of her poor performance in opinion polls. In a record-breaking gap not seen since the country transitioned to democracy in 1996, Hung now trails opposition candidate Tsai Ing-wen by 25 percent.

Despite the numbers, however, Hung has refused to step out of the race, promising to “stand for election until the end.”

Hung Hsiu-chu
Hung Hsiu-chu.

A doomed campaign?

After seven years under President Ma Ying-jeou, the KMT is projected to suffer a crushing defeat when the country goes to the polls on January 16, 2016.

President Ma resigned as party chairman in 2014 after his party suffered a humiliating defeat in local elections, which saw the KMT lose control of nine municipalities across the country.

Eric Chu and Hung Hsiu-chu
Eric Chu (left-centre) and Hung Hsiu-chu.

As Ma’s popularity waned, Chu and other party leaders declined to enter a race that seemed fated to lose. Instead, they forced the responsibility on Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung, who hailed from the ‘deep-blue’ periphery of the KMT, known for their doggedly loyalty to the party orthodoxy that had made Ma so unpopular.

Schadenfreude and frustration

Hung’s rival, Democratic Progressive Party chairperson Tsai Ing-wen, told journalists on the campaign trail that “Taiwanese people actually don’t care whether the KMT replaces Hung or not.” What they care about, Tsai said, is a dependable team that can meet their political expectations.

 Tsai Ing-wen
DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen.

Even with Chu as the KMT’s new presidential candidate, the party is still projected to trail the DPP by 10 percent. Although changing horses midstream may not revive the party’s election chances, it may succeed at keeping the party together.

In southern Taiwan, a stronghold for the DPP and pro-independence sentiment, some KMT candidates threatened to quit the race if Hung is not replaced by a stronger candidate.

When the KMT Central Standing Committee met on Wednesday, Chu criticised Hung’s staunchly pro-unification stance for “deviating too far from mainstream public opinion” on cross-strait relations.

Criticising her party’s lack of support and unity, Hung wrote in a Facebook post that “those suffering the most will be the party itself and those running (for legislative seats) on the KMT ticket.” Chu’s actions, she wrote, “discredited the party.”

The internal power struggle at the upper echelons of the KMT inspired pan-blue ally and former President of the Control, Yuan Wang Chien-shien to lament that “the ghost of Sun Yat-sen is crying, his inheritors are so unworthy.”

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick is an award-winning journalist and scholar from Hong Kong who has reported on the city’s politics, protests, and policing for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, TIME, The Guardian, The Independent, and others