Sat, Jan 12, 2019 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: New premier brings hope

When William Lai (賴清德) resigned as Tainan mayor and succeeded Lin Chuan (林全) as premier in September 2017, he was described by many as the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration’s “middle relief pitcher.” That means incoming premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) would be — and has to be — the DPP’s “closer,” with about a year until the next presidential election.

While the nation’s semi-presidential system has long been criticized for having an unclear separation of power between the president and the premier — often leaving the latter as the president’s “chief executive officer” — this is bound to change because of the chemistry between President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Su, with the relationship likely to resemble symbiosis.

First, Tsai can no longer afford to introduce unpopular policies that would hurt the public interest — such as the “one fixed day off, one flexible rest day” labor policy that has led to people in some sectors working 12 days in a row and shortened rest time between shifts.

Tsai has seen a substantial rebound in popularity thanks to her admirably tough response to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) proposal to create a Hong Kong-style “one country, two systems” formula for unification with Taiwan and calls from four independence advocates, who urged Tsai not to seek re-election next year. Her fans and detractors are watching carefully to see whether she can capitalize on this newfound momentum.

Meanwhile, Su, 71, must show the public that he is still capable in his reprised role, as failure to do so would not only further detract from his legacy after his loss in the New Taipei City mayoral election, but also sound the death knell for Tsai’s administration — as semi-presidential systems often go — resulting in a lose-lose-lose situation for himself, Tsai and ultimately the DPP.

Despite being interspersed with a few gaffes — mainly about generally low salaries — Lai’s tenure as premier was highlighted by strong policymaking, which made his Cabinet a powerhouse when proposing bills, especially those aimed at boosting the economy.

This makes Lai’s team a tough act to follow for Su, who, despite having solid governing experience — having served terms as commissioner of what was then Taipei County and Pingtung County, as well as premier — has not held a governing post since 2007.

Su’s acceptance of Tsai’s request that he take over as premier should be applauded, but he is walking a tightrope. His daughter DPP Legislator Su Chiao-hui (蘇巧慧) last month said that there was no better choice than Lai to serve as premier when asked to comment on rumors he would be asked, with her comment interpreted by many as an attempt to dissuade her father from taking up the post.

If Su Tseng-chang does not want his noble gesture to be wasted, he might start with fulfilling the long-overdue task of honoring Tsai’s election campaign promises of three years ago, most notably by improving labor rights and carrying out judicial reform to prevent out-of-touch verdicts from being passed, and prevent members of the privileged class from jumping bail and fleeing the country, as Ching Fu Shipbuilding Co vice chairman Chen Wei-chih (陳偉志) and former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Lee Ching-hua (李慶華) have done on the DPP’s watch.

The imminent inauguration of a new Cabinet and Tsai’s newfound public support have given the DPP a golden chance to regroup and reconnect with the public after its devastating losses in last year’s local elections. It all comes down whether Tsai, the “head coach,” and Su Tseng-chang can close out the game.

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