Lien Chan has been prominent in Taiwanese politics for several decades, yet the top job has always eluded him.
Lien Chan has tried to lighten his staid image
Having lost two elections, in 2000 and 2004, he now says he plans to retire as president of the opposition Kuomintang or Nationalist party later this year.
As one of the richest men in Taiwan, his critics say he is aloof and failed to connect with popular opinion during the election campaigns.
Mr Lien was actually born on the mainland, in 1936 in the ancient Chinese capital of Xian, but his also has long links with Taiwan.
He is the son of a former senior official in the KMT - which at that time ruled the whole of China.
His family returned to Taiwan along with the defeated KMT government and army after the communists took power on the mainland in 1949.
After studying in the United States, he became an academic and then a diplomat, serving as Taiwan's ambassador to El Salvador in the mid 1970s.
He served as minister of communications, vice premier, foreign minister, prime minister and vice president, before finally running for president in 2000.
Mr Lien campaigned on a "3-S" campaign of "Safety, Security and Stability," but he ended up coming a distant third, with just 23% of the vote.
Analysts say Mr Lien's resounding defeat may have been partly as a result of a major earthquake in Taiwan a few months before the election. The government had been roundly criticised for its relief efforts.
In 2004, Mr Lien ran again for president, with James Soong, head of another opposition party, the People First Party, as his running mate.
He lost the vote by only 0.2% and later challenged the results, saying that the shooting of President Chen Shui-bian and his Vice-President Annette Lu on the eve of the poll was a conspiracy which had improved their chances of winning.
That challenge has since been thrown out by the High Court.
Mr Lien is married to Fang Yui and they have four children - two daughters and two sons. He is said to enjoy reading, golf and swimming.