A petition making the rounds in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) asking for the resignation of DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) over a drop in party membership has drawn limited support, but Tsai’s headaches as party leader are unlikely to disappear anytime soon.
Circulated by several senior party members, including some city and county councilors and DPP Legislator Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮), the petition highlights deepening factional divides within the party, pitting Tsai against several party elders unhappy with her leadership.
However, while an estimated 400 supporters attended a “Democracy, Progress and Save Taiwan” event held by the coalition yesterday, few signed the petition despite raising vocal concern about controversial nomination revisions spearheaded by Tsai last month.
Volunteers at the event said the petition had received “several dozen” signatures, but added they could not give reporters a look at the petition forms. Another sheet at a table remained half empty, with less than a dozen signatures.
However, the presence of the petition signals growing frustration with Tsai and her leadership, especially by the group and former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), who has spoken against the nomination revisions, which she said have led a steep decline in party membership this year.
The revisions, ratified by a party congress last month, phase out a party member vote in the primaries in favor of using telephone polls to decide the party’s presidential candidate.
“Tsai must have something wrong in her head or taken the wrong medicine. That’s the message I’ve been hearing from people,” said Chang Kuei-mu (張貴木), a founding member of the party and member of the coalition, in response to claims by DPP officials that the revisions have not impacted membership numbers.
Chai, a former DPP caucus whip, said the revisions would play into the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) hands, arguing that including pan-blue voters in the telephone poll primaries would skew the result.
Lu asked the crowd: “Three poll companies and 3,000 telephone calls asking who people support for president — are you alright with this method?”
Meanwhile, party officials have downplayed the impact of the change by arguing that the revision is necessary to ward off the phenomenon of “proxy members” signing up with the sole purpose of skewing local and national party primaries.
DPP officials did not comment on the petition yesterday, with DPP Deputy Secretary-General Kao Chien-chih (高建智) refusing to acknowledge it, despite being at the event where it was circulated.
There are differing accounts of just how many party members have quit the party under Tsai. Local officials contacted by the Taipei Times earlier this month have said that the drop in membership had reached 90 percent from last year, a decline that some party sources have also privately confirmed.
Lu and members of the Democracy, Progress and Save Taiwan group have also maintained that the DPP currently had no more than 40,000 paying members earlier this month from an original high of 484,889 when Tsai took the helm in 2008.
However, officially, the DPP has insisted that membership numbers are much higher — saying that the memberships of those who have not paid their party dues have not yet expired.