Former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) emerged as the winner of the first stage of the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) presidential primary yesterday. As a result, one of his three opponents decided to drop out of the race and another announced a halt to all campaign events.
Under the DPP's system, the party member vote counts for 30 percent of a would-be candidate's "score," while a public poll counts for 70 percent.
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) announced his withdrawal from the primary shortly after results showed he lagged behind Hsieh in the vote by DPP members.
DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun told a separate news conference that he would immediately stop all his campaigning activities as a sign of respect for "the choice of the people."
Hsieh beat his three rivals by garnering 62,849 votes yesterday.
Su came in second with 46,994 votes followed by DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun, who won 22,211 votes.
Vice President Annette Lu (
A total of 254,963 DPP members were eligible to vote yesterday. Turnout was 56.06 percent.
Hsieh won the majority of the votes in 17 out of 24 cities and counties, including Taipei City, Kaohsiung City, Kaohsiung County and Taichung County.
Hsieh lost to Su by 127 votes in Taipei County, which was considered a Su stronghold because the premier was formerly Taipei County commissioner.
President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) congratulated Hsieh on his first-stage victory when Hsieh telephoned him last night to report the result of the election.
Hsieh also telephoned Su and the other contenders after all the tallies were completed. He also visited Yu later last night.
Speaking at a press conference at his campaign office, Hsieh pledged to make an all-out effort to mend fences damaged during the primary process.
"As the first round of the primary is over, it is time to come together for the best interests of the party and the country," he said.
Hsieh was referring to Chen's appeal yesterday morning for the four presidential hopefuls to cooperate with each other.
Commenting on the controversy surrounding an allegation of corruption against him -- which has caused a rift between him and Su -- Hsieh said that yesterday's result was a vote of confidence in him and that he would be proven innocent.
In the lead up to yesterday's vote, Hsieh and Su's camps locked horns over a document leaked to the Chinese-language Next Magazine.
On Wednesday the magazine published a copy of what it said was an official document signed by Kaohsiung Prosecutor Lo Chien-hsun (
The magazine said that Lo thought Hsieh should be indicted on corruption charges on suspicion of accepting illegal donations from a Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp board member and others during his term as mayor of Kaohsiung.
Hsieh yesterday called on the party to use the energy accumulated during the primary to unite in the face of future challenges.
Hsieh also called on party members to use that energy to campaign together for referendums on the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) stolen assets and applying to join the UN under the name "Taiwan."
Hsieh said he would not abandon the ideal of normalizing Taiwan and was confident that he could lead the nation to join international bodies as "Taiwan."
"I am sure we will accomplish the goal and I will pursue it with a practical approach. We will march forward and we will maintain economic development and social and political stability and achieve [normalized] international status," Hsieh said.
He made the comment with former Kaohsiung acting mayor Yeh Chu-lan (
Flanked by his wife and daughters and some DPP lawmakers at his campaign office last night, Su called on DPP members to support "the one who wins the primary."
"For the party's unity, the party's chance of winning the presidential election ... I have decided to drop out of the primary. Taiwan has to win," he said.
"The primary has reflected the will of DPP party members, and I therefore accept and respect the result," he said.
Some of Su's staff shed tears over the yesterday's results, while Su shook their hands.
He thanked party members and his campaign staff for giving him their support and encouragement during the primary.
He then left without taking any questions from the press.
Sources from Su's campaign camp said they felt that he should not think about resigning.
"[The premier] will not resign," the sources said.
The sources said that Su's resignation would put the president in a difficult situation and have an adverse effect on the DPP's presidential campaign.
Before the party headquarters announced the final result last night, Yu held a press conference in his campaign office, announcing his defeat.
"This primary was a victory for the DPP because the party elected its presidential candidate through a democratic process," he said.
"DPP members were able to choose the presidential contender they preferred and participate in the party's presidential nomination," he said.
During the primary, aspirants had "clearly elaborated on where they would like to lead the nation," Yu said.
Meanwhile, Lu said in an interview with CTI-TV last night that she would stay in the race for the next phase of the DPP nomination process.
"I"m an athlete in democracy. There's no reason for an athlete to give up halfway," she said.
"I knew I would fail, but I still went through [membership vote] unashamedly," she said.
She congratulated Hsieh and praised Su's decision to withdraw from the primary's second phase.
"I think ? Hsieh will win the opinion polls, but it's alright," she said.
Earlier yesterday, Lu said it was unlikely she would run as an independent candidate in the presidential election.
Speaking on a TV program, Lu thanked her supporters for voting her because "each ballot was like a pearl. It is precious."
However, she criticized the party's primary mechanism as "unfair" and the party for failing to take a neutral stance during the primary process.
In other developments, Acting DPP Chairman Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮) told a press conference last night that the party would proceed with a public opinion poll for all four contenders between Wednesday and Friday, even though Su has dropped out and Yu has sidelined his campaign.
DPP regulations stipulate that those who have registered as presidential contenders cannot withdraw without the approval of the party's Central Executive Committee. However, the regulations also stipulate that such a decision cannot be made after the primary begins.
In related news, Kaohsiung District Prosecutors' Office Spokesman Chung Chung-hsiao (鍾忠孝) said investigators yesterday had summoned 10 people for questioning on suspicion they bribed voters in yesterday's DPP poll.
Investigators said that people around Shan Feng Temple (
The questioning was still going on at press time.
Additional reporting by Rich Chang
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