Taiwan's ruling Nationalist Party has dumped its unpopular presidential candidate less than three months ahead of an election that the pro-independence opposition is widely favored to win.

Delegates at an extraordinary party congress on Saturday voted overwhelmingly to nullify Hung Hsiu-chu's nomination and select a new candidate. Party chairman Eric Chu is widely favored to take up the mantle to lead the party's ticket in the Jan. 16 election.

The Nationalists have lost favor over their pro-China policies and Hung was running about 20 percentage points behind the Democratic Progressive Party's candidate, Tsai Ing-wen, who advocates greater caution in relations with Beijing.

While the Nationalists are still expected to lose the presidency, a more popular candidate could help them retain their majority in Taiwan's parliament.