(Bloomberg) -- Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of Foxconn Technology Group, pulled out of next year’s presidential election in Taiwan, a move that may help unite the opposition Kuomintang party.
Gou apologized to his supporters in a statement on Facebook Tuesday outlining his decision to withdraw from the race as an independent. After he quit the KMT last week, he had come under pressure from opposition leaders, including former President Ma Ying-jeou, to drop out of the race and support their nominee to help return the China-friendly party to power.
“With this poor election climate and prevailing populism, I’m not willing to participate in this political farce, not only for my own personal and factional interests, but also because class struggle is tearing Taiwan apart,” Gou said in a video released Tuesday.
Gou could still run as a candidate for one of Taiwan’s established political parties.
Shares in companies controlled by Gou slumped Tuesday. FIH Mobile Ltd. was the worst performer on Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Composite Index, tumbling as much as 23.2%. His flagship Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. fell 2% in Taipei.
Gou had been widely expected to run for the presidency after publicly flirting with the idea since losing the KMT primary to Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu in July. Gou’s candidacy threatened to sap support for Han who will challenge President Tsai Ing-wen in the Jan. 11 election.
Gou trailed the two candidates from the main parties by at least seven percentage points, according to a survey released by TVBS last week. In a two-way race, Tsai leads with 49% of support, compared with 42% for Han.
What had been shaping up as Taiwan’s most competitive presidential election in decades could end up being essentially a straight fight between Tsai and Han. Another prospective independent candidate, Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je, said he had no intention of running for president, according to a report by TV news channel TVBS on Tuesday.
Still, Tsai could face increased competition for voters who favor a stronger push for the island’s formal independence. Former Vice President Annette Lu announced her intention to run as an independent. Lu served as vice president under Chen Shui-bian between 2000 and 2008.
(An earlier version of this story was corrected to fix spelling of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. in fifth paragraph)
--With assistance from Tony Jordan.
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