After four long years of angst and of hope that things might change, numerous Taiwanese are now having to live with the bitter taste of defeat. Deep down, some people feel a sense of trepidation for what the future holds, and are in need of emotional support.
Faced with her failed presidential bid, the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) announced that she would take responsibility for the outcome, saying it was time for her to stand down as party chairperson. We commend her courage in accepting responsibility, but we would ask her to reconsider the decision.
We offer the following reasons.
First, the odds of winning the election were always heavily stacked against Tsai and the DPP. The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has access to prodigious amounts of party resources. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) also had the advantage of access to government resources as the incumbent, as well as the backing of Beijing, which attempted to influence the vote through economic intimidation. All of this conspired against Tsai, making her task all the more difficult.
Second, many examples of corruption were observed during the election. Twelve borough chiefs were accused of vote buying in Greater Kaohsiung’s Fongshan District (鳳山) alone, and another 12 community chiefs were suspected of doing the same in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Sanchong District (三重).
Third, the incumbent arranged it so that the elections happened to fall during the period when schools were holding their end-of-semester examinations and a week before the beginning of the Lunar New Year holiday. This decision affected first time voters and itinerant workers who would have needed to return home to vote.
Fourth, in the 2008 election, Ma and Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), received more than 7,658,000 votes, beating the DPP by more than 2,210,00 votes. However, under Tsai’s stewardship the DPP was able to close that gap by a considerable degree, receiving about 798,000 fewer votes than Ma. There were also gains in the number of legislative seats and the number of party votes received. So, there is some glory to be had, even in defeat.
Finally, the party’s chair is due to change hands mid-year, so it is even less desirable for Tsai to go before the pre-arranged handover.
It is widely acknowledged that Tsai has guided the party through some very precarious territory during the past four years. The DPP was truly fortunate to have had her at the helm. She has shown outstanding leadership qualities, being astute and wise, as well as demonstrating a natural amiability and warmth in combination with a willingness to accommodate all sides of an argument. The defeat is not only her loss, it is also Taiwan’s loss.
There remains so much to do in the wake of the election and the nation faces so many challenges. We implore Tsai to rethink her position to stand down.
[Editor’s note: Tsai Ing-wen tendered her resignation as DPP chairperson yesterday, which takes effect March 1.]
Reverend Kao Chun-ming (高俊明) is a Presbyterian pastor; Hwang Kun-hu (黃崑虎) is president of the Taiwan Friends Association; Cheng Cheng-yu (鄭正煜) is a former chairman of the Southern Taiwan Society; Wu Ting-ho (吳庭和) is a former director of the Taiwan Association of America; Cho Chun-ying (卓春英) is an associate professor at Chang Jung Christian University; Chien Chiao-tung (簡交通) is director of the Southern Taiwan Society; Chang Yeh-sen (張葉森) is chairman of the Taiwan Hakka Society.