Taiwan's main opposition party, the Nationalist Party, nominated Wednesday New Taipei Mayor Hou Yu-ih as its candidate in the island's presidential election next January to run against Vice President Lai Ching-te of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

Hou, 65, mayor of the northern Taiwan city surrounding the capital, said only by changing the ruling party can the island be saved from its dire international situation.

New Taipei Mayor Hou Yu-ih, the presidential candidate of Taiwan's main opposition party, the Nationalist Party, is pictured in Taipei on May 17, 2023. (Central News Agency/Kyodo)

China has been stepping up military and political pressure against Taiwan since independence-leaning Tsai Ing-wen of the DPP was elected as the island's leader in 2016. The 66-year-old president, whose second four-year term will expire next year, is ineligible for re-election.

The Communist-led mainland regards the self-ruled democratic island as a renegade province awaiting unification, by force if necessary.

A win for the opposition party, also called the Kuomintang (KMT) and seen as China's preferred negotiating partner in Taiwan, will likely bring ties between Taipei and Beijing closer.

"To run in the election means we must win, to run in the election means we must be united, to run in the election means we must bring people hope," Hou said after being nominated.

The former head of the National Police Agency is serving his second term as mayor after a decisive lead over the DPP candidate in a local election last year.

KMT Chairman Eric Chu announced the nomination of Hou at a meeting of the party's Central Standing Committee, saying he was picked based on "scientific data and the opinions of local government heads and lawmakers."

Hou received the KMT nod over another main contender, business tycoon Terry Gou, 72, founder of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., which assembles Apple Inc.'s iPhones and is known by its trade name Foxconn.

On Wednesday, the opposition Taiwan People's Party also nominated former Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je, 63, as its presidential candidate.

In a poll organized by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation earlier this month, Lai, 63, was leading the other two, securing 35.8 percent of support. Hou was backed by 27.6 percent, while Ko was favored by 25.1 percent.

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