Fri, Sep 15, 2017 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: DPP plans as Lai’s star rises

Former Tainan mayor William Lai’s (賴清德) appointment as premier has attracted much speculation over the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) electoral plans. The one that has gained the greatest momentum is perhaps this: Is Lai going to pair up with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in the 2020 presidential race?

Although having kept his political presence mostly in southern Taiwan, Lai is arguably one of the most well-known and well-liked politicians in the nation, on a par with Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊).

A poll conducted by the Chinese-language Global Views Monthly in May to gauge public satisfaction with the performance of the mayors of the six special municipalities put Lai and Chen first and second respectively.

Lai’s consistently high approval rating is believed to be one of the main reasons Tsai picked him as premier, given the president’s dire need for a popularity boost after a series of reforms have left her persona non grata among certain voter groups.

Such a belief was reinforced by the unexpected announcement on Tuesday by the new Cabinet of a 3 percent pay raise for government employees, public-school teachers and military personnel next year.

It is the first pay hike for public-sector employees in six years and comes after a string of protests in late June against the Tsai administration’s somewhat drastic reform of public servants’ pensions.

The anti-reform demonstrators have resorted to violence, shadowed Tsai at public events and even caused an embarrassing disruption at the Taipei Summer Universiade’s opening ceremony on Aug. 19.

Given the situation, the pay raise seems to provide a much-needed Band-Aid for an administration in damage-control mode.

Another theory fueling the speculation of a Tsai-Lai ticket in 2020 is that the pro-independence faction in the pan-green camp has reportedly begun to lose patience with Tsai, who has occupied a middle ground in cross-strait relations and has yet to respond to repeated calls for her to pardon former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

The former president served more than six years of a 20-year sentence for corruption before being released on medical parole in 2015, but he still faces other criminal charges.

The appointment of Lai, who has on multiple occasions publicly stated his support for Taiwanese independence, is said to be part of Tsai’s attempt to assuage the pro-independence faction’s grievances against her.

However, Tsai might not have made the decision completely willingly.

It is a political norm for incumbents to run for re-election and for their parties to automatically endorse their candidacy.

However, since June, there have been polls that pitted Tsai against Lai as the DPP’s potential 2020 candidate.

On June 26, the Chinese-language China Times Weekly published a survey showing that 27.9 percent of respondents favored Lai, while Tsai only received 20 percent support.

A month later, Taiwan Brain Trust — a pan-green think tank founded in 2010 by pro-independence heavyweight Koo Kwang-ming (辜寬敏) — released a poll that found Lai to be a more preferable DPP candidate than Tsai by nearly 18 percentage points.

The July survey also showed that if running against Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) or Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海) chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘) in a two-legged race, Lai would defeat all three by a comfortable margin.

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