Former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) yesterday announced that she has withdrawn from the Jan. 11 presidential election.

To qualify to run as an independent candidate under the Presidential and Vice Presidential Election and Recall Act (總統副總統選舉罷免法), Lu needed to collect 280,384 valid signatures in support of her bid — 1.5 percent of the electorate as counted in the 2016 legislative elections — by yesterday.

Lu said in a statement that there had been issues during the petitioning process, so she decided not to submit the collected signatures to the Central Election Commission.

Local Chinese-language media reported that the number of valid signatures Lu received was not more than 140,000.

Citing what she described as “politicians colluding with the media,” Lu said that the major media outlets have degenerated into campaign mouthpieces for a certain candidate, who completely blocked any news about her and her running mate, former Nantou County Commissioner Peng Pai-hsien (彭百顯).

She said that it was a “media assassination.”

“Those in power” sing praises about democracy, yet they blatantly destroy it, while the media have willingly sacrificed their morals and deserve to be reprimanded by the public, she said.

She criticized a long-standing rule in the act, which requires people to provide a photocopy of their national identification cards when they sign a petition for a presidential aspirant and their running mate.

The rule obstructs efforts to gather signatures, disregards people’s privacy and contravenes Judicial Yuan Constitutional Interpretation No. 603, Lu said.

There were also instances in which people at her petition stations were harassed and bribed, which caused her to receive significantly fewer signatures than she had expected, she said.

Lu apologized to her supporters for having failed to pass the petition threshold and thanked them for having had faith in her.

The experience reflected the good and evil of humanity, Lu said, promising to carry on working to improve Taiwan with like-minded people who value peace and justice.

In other developments, People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) is “almost certain” to join the presidential race, a party source said.

If true, it would be Soong’s fourth presidential run.

Sources said that the party had recently commissioned an agency to conduct a poll, which found that 35 percent of people were still undecided if they were to vote in a head-to-head race between President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who is seeking re-election for the Democratic Progressive Party, and Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate.

The PFP’s internal evaluation suggested that if Soong joined the race, not only would he not finish last, but he could turn the tide and win, the source said.

Soong met with Investment Media and Wealth Magazine chairman Hsieh Chin-ho (謝金河) for an hour and a half last week, the source said.

Soong revealed to Hsieh his plan to run for president and asked him to be his running mate, but Hsieh declined, the source said.

When asked for comment yesterday, Hsieh did not confirm or deny that the meeting had taken place.

According to the commission’s schedule, presidential aspirants who have been nominated by a political party must register to run in the presidential election from Nov. 18 to Nov. 22.