Former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) unexpectedly dropped her bid for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential nomination yesterday afternoon.
“I wish the other candidates the best, but I won’t join the 2012 DPP presidential primaries,” Lu said at a press conference where she was originally expected to unveil her cross-strait policies.
Lu said she was deeply affected by the natural disasters in Japan and claimed her decision was due to a “sign from God.”
“Even with this kind of disaster taking place so close to Taiwan, not many people are willing to reflect on what needs to be done,” she said, explaining her decision to drop the presidential bid in order to spend more time on the environmental movement. “Maybe I’ll lose a few supporters, but I have to do what has to be done.”
At the press conference, Lu recounted her political journey, from a feminist leader to jailed democracy activist and then eventually Taiwan’s first female vice--president, serving two terms with former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
“I have experienced every kind of out-of-luck situation, but I’m still standing here today. My biggest wish is to see more people serve this country,” she said.
On Feb. 28, Lu declared her candidacy for the DPP nomination to become the nation’s first female head of state, launching her campaign with the words: “I have the experience to be president.”
However, despite her more than two weeks head start against two other DPP candidates — Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who temporarily stepped down as party chairperson to run for the DPP nomination, and former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) — Lu, 66, struggled in the opinion polls that will be used to decide the party primaries.
Her proposal to change the national anthem, move the capital from Taipei and push for a referendum to rename the country also drew mixed responses from the public, despite canvassing heavily nationwide.
A poll conducted by the Chinese-language United Daily News released on March 11 suggested Lu had the lowest chance of all DPP presidential hopefuls. If the two faced off, Ma would receive 41 percent against Lu’s 17 percent; Tsai and Su would instead receive 31 percent each, the survey showed.
Lu yesterday made no mention of those poll numbers and gave no endorsement to either Tsai or Su.
Meanwhile, Liu said she would quit her elected post in the DPP’s Central Executive Committee, listing what she said were a number of problems, including a factional system that has drawn criticism in the past.
She vowed to continue her work in politics through the China Research Center as part of the Institute of National Development she helped create. Critiques, she said, would continue to be offered on the DPP’s cross-strait policies.
Lu’s announcement yesterday came as a relief to DPP politicians who were growing concerned about how a three-way race might split the party in a decisive election year.
DPP caucus chief Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), the acting party chairperson, immediately released a statement saying that Lu’s decision was a “tremendous help to party unity and the [DPP’s] chances of success in the elections.”
“It will have a huge impact on the DPP — a positive impact. The party will continue to look toward her for guidance in the future,” Ker added.
Both Tsai and Su said they respected Lu’s decision.
Tsai said while canvassing in Chiayi County yesterday that she “admired Lu’s ability to look at the big picture and her concern about unity within the party.”
Lu’s announcement will increase the chances that a deal on who to nominate can be brokered behind closed-doors before Tsai and Su head into the primaries based entirely on telephone polls.
The party is expected to hold at least two more high-level meetings on the issue before it holds the polls between April 25 and April 29. It is understood that informal polls will be held beforehand that will be provided to the two candidates as a reference.
The DPP currently expects that a presidential candidate will be finalized by May 4, if not sooner, pending discussions between Tsai and Su.
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