Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday officially launched her presidential campaign with a speech pledging to bring back trust in the government and hope for the future of the country.
“I hear Taiwan’s voice and it’s telling me that a new generational change of power is rising, that we must start to walk a different road,” Tsai told a gathering of officials in the morning.
Standing in her trademark black outfit, Tsai, 54, invoked destiny in seeking to reclaim the presidency, lost in 2008, promising a “more fair country” where Taiwanese would be their own masters.
She portrayed the campaign as not about her own candidacy, but as a reflection of growing pressure from the young, the poor and the dissatisfied, yearning for change in a country that is growing more divided by income and status.
“The reason for government is not to allow a few people to reap the benefits of economic growth, but to create a society where everyone can enjoy the fruits of prosperity,” Tsai said. “This is my belief and what I believe to be Taiwanese values.”
Tsai, who joined the DPP in 2004, is looking to cap her rapid rise to prominence by returning the broken and bruised party she inherited in 2008 back to the Presidential Office, becoming the country’s first female president.
Her 16-minute speech referred to the party’s resurgence to loud, long rounds of applause and she said that it has once again provided Taiwan with an alternative future in which the public can believe.
“Taiwan desperately needs a political choice away from the KMT [Chinese Nationalist Party] and we must become that strong and viable choice,” she said. “Taiwanese are telling us that they want to be their own masters, devoted to this piece of land … I have heard these voices and I will not back down.”
Tsai also downplayed concerns over her lack of administrative and electoral experience, saying: “I have proven that the DPP can be reborn from the ashes.”
“People have said that I’m not political; that I can’t scheme and will be unable to live in the complicated political environment. However, in three years, I have shown … that scheming doesn’t have to be a part of politics, and that trust and debate are more important,” she said.
To receive the DPP’s nomination, Tsai will still have to battle against former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), who represents a cadre of “party elders,” and possibly former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), seen as close to making an announcement of his own.
It wasn’t clear whether the two received invitations to the high-profile event given out earlier this week, although both failed to attend the announcement. Former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), another possible contender, was absent. However, one of his supporters, former Cabinet spokesman Pasuya Yao (姚文智), was there.
Party observers were closely watching participants at the venue for signals of support from the DPP’s many factions and divides.
Lacking were politicians connected to Su and Lu.
Also in attendance were pro-independence heavyweights such as Koo Kwang-ming (辜寬敏), pointing to backing from the DPP’s more fundamental wing and seen as important to clinching party support in the primaries.
To cast aside allegations of a conflict of interest between her party leadership role, Tsai said on Thursday she would take a leave of absence, with the post temporarily filled by party veteran Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), the DPP caucus chief.