Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) was named the new premier yesterday, as President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) urged the new Cabinet to promote dialogue between the government and the opposition.
"Mayor Hsieh is a political talent that's hard to come by. I hereby appoint Hsieh to be the new premier and entrust him with the task of forming the new Cabinet," Chen said at a news conference at the Presidential Office yesterday, as Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), Presidential Secretary-General Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and Hsieh looked on.
"The new Cabinet will be a one of consultation, dialogue and stability," Chen said.
Outgoing Premier Yu Shyi-kun and his Cabinet members resigned on Monday to make way for the new team. The new Cabinet will take office on Feb. 1, along with the new legislature.
Calling Hsieh "the best mayor of a special municipality," Chen said he had known Hsieh for "more than a quarter of a century" since they worked together in the dangwai ("outside the Chinese Nationalist Party") opposition group.
"Along the way, we have fought side by side and engaged in gentlemanly battles, but in the end we have become the finest partners through mutual assistance and a tacit understanding," Chen said.
He said that Hsieh's appointment was significant for three reasons: it symbolized the upgrading of local government, provided greater balance between the south and the north of the country and demonstrated the importance of negotiation.
"[Hsieh] is the first ever head of a local government to be directly appointed to the office of premier, thereby serving as a bridge for relations between the central and local governments," Chen said.
As premier, Hsieh would also introduce a southern perspective to government, which had tended to analyze domestic issues from a "Taipei perspective" in the past, Chen said.
"Mayor Hsieh used to do gymnastics, so there's no question about his ability to be flexible," Chen said. "Mayor Hsieh is the best choice for starting discussions and negotiations over creating a stable new environment."
Referring to his New Year message which promised negotiation and dialogue, Chen said he "hopes the new Cabinet will engage in dialogue and negotiations with the opposition, seeking political stability, public welfare, ethnic harmony and cross-strait peace."
Chen also congratulated Yu and expressed gratitude for the Cabinet's performance under Yu's leadership.
After stepping down as premier on Feb. 1, Chen said that Yu would be appointed Presidential Office Secretary-General, replacing Su Tseng-chang, who will assume the chairmanship of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) next week.
Chen also said that, "Taiwan is still in a phase of searching for cross-party cooperation, the basis for which is still weak."
"Although we have a chance to open the door to reconciliation and cooperation, we are still hesitant to take critical steps," he said. "We will not give up on this path, however."
Hsieh thanked Chen for his appointment, while noting that he felt rather "terrified that I will not have the ability to accomplish this historic mission."
He added that he would work with determination and confidence, pledging to pursue political and social stability as well as cross-strait peace upon the foundations paved by Yu. Cross-party reconciliation and political stability would be the new Cabinet's top priorities, he added.