Fri, Apr 13, 2018 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: DPP turning back to old guard

When former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was in power, he was often ridiculed for looking for ministers in the mirror, meaning that he had a tendency to go after people who closely shared his ideas and way of doing things. That led to the creation of an echo chamber in Ma’s inner governing circle and smothered the possibility for changes and innovation.

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) now appears to be facing a different, but somewhat similar dilemma — the resurfacing of the party’s old guard.

Former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), one of the DPP’s so-called four political heavyweights in the early days, yesterday announced on Facebook that he has accepted President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) nomination as the DPP’s New Taipei City mayoral candidate. His nomination is due to be made official later this month.

It is not difficult to understand why Tsai, who doubles as DPP chairperson, would pick Su, a veteran politician with a lifetime of political experiences. The 70-year-old governed New Taipei City’s predecessor — Taipei County — for eight years from 1997 to 2004, after serving as a lawmaker and Pingtung County commissioner.

From 2004 onward, Su quickly ascended the political ladder, assuming high-level posts including Presidential Office secretary-general, premier and DPP chairman. He also represented the DPP in the 2008 presidential election as its vice presidential candidate and in the 2010 Taipei mayoral race, although he lost both elections.

Su was inarguably one of the most powerful politicians before 2012, when Tsai gradually took over his place in the DPP after winning the party’s presidential nomination.

However, while he has a stellar resume, Su has had his fair share of time on the political stage. Not to mention his comeback this time not only goes against his pledge in 2010 not to run for the New Taipei City mayoral post, but also adds further fuel to recent concerns that the DPP is devoid of new presentable talent and is overshadowed by senior party members who are reluctant to step out of the limelight.

Such concerns first emerged in September last year, when then-Tainan mayor William Lai (賴清德) was appointed to the premiership. Lai is undoubtedly one of, if not the most, popular mayors of all time, but based on his career trajectory, he should have aimed for the DPP’s candidacy in the 2024 presidential election.

Letting Lai take over the helms of the Cabinet — a post doomed to cut down his support ratings — sent the message that the DPP administration had no other capable candidates in its pocket and had to use its trump card only two years into office.

The concerns were intensified by the Wednesday appointment as Presidential Office secretary-general of three-term Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊), one of the DPP’s founding members.

Former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), now 74, competing for the DPP’s nomination for the Taipei mayoral post only reinforces the perception that the party’s old guard has yet to consider retirement.

It is true that New Taipei City has traditionally been a tough constituency for the pan-green camp to win, but it is the largest municipality by population and is therefore vital to Tsai’s re-election bid as president in 2020.

Nominating Su is simply playing it safe, and goes against the youthful and reformative image that the DPP has been trying to build over the years.

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