(Bloomberg) -- Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of iPhone assembler Foxconn Technology Group, quit Taiwan's China-friendly opposition party Thursday in a move seen as paving the way for an independent run for the island's presidency.

In the latest signal of an impending bid, Gou's campaign spokeswoman Evelyn Tsai said Thursday that Gou was withdrawing from the Kuomintang, a necessary precursor to a run as an independent. While Gou met with senior members of the KMT this week, his aides visited Taiwan's Central Election Commission to clarify election registration procedures. He has until Tuesday to apply to take part in the election.

A Gou campaign would throw Taiwan's politics into turmoil, making January's vote the most hotly contested presidential election there in decades. It would pit him against incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen and KMT challenger Han Kuo-yu. It would also make the KMT's uphill battle to unseat Tsai even harder, with Gou likely to sap more support from Han than Tsai.

Gou has been publicly flirting with the idea of a presidential bid despite losing the KMT's primary to Han, the mayor of Kaohsiung City, in July. The Foxconn founder has been sending signals of an impending bid for weeks. After assembling a campaign team, he confirmed he was considering breaking from the KMT to run a stand-alone bid.

A three-way battle for Taiwan's presidency would likely be a hard-fought affair. Tsai currently enjoys a narrow advantage, with a 33.7% support rating compared with 28.9% for Han and 25.6% for Gou, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Apple Daily newspaper.

--With assistance from Adela Lin.

To contact the reporter on this story: Samson Ellis in Taipei at sellis29@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Liu at jliu42@bloomberg.net, ;Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, Karen Leigh

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