Hopes for a quick reconciliation between Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and former campaign rival Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) were deflated yesterday as uncomfortable moments peppered a highly anticipated meeting between the two.
Despite drawing a large media presence, it became clear from the first greeting that Su would not sing to Tsai’s tune, from rejecting her request for a private meeting to repeated queries on what potential campaign role she had planned for him.
A limp handshake and few words were exchanged, despite the meeting being their first since the DPP primaries.
Initiated by Tsai, the delicate diplomacy effort appeared to be centered on laying the framework for her vanquished campaign rival to be offered a key political or campaign post. Tsai defeated Su by 1.35 percentage points in last month’s primaries.
However, Tsai appeared unwilling to divulge details of the potential deal. While the two sat side-by-side, they faced and talked to the cameras.
“There are some things I won’t talk about in front of the [press]. More will be said after I consult with the former premier,” a terse Tsai said in response to repeated questions about whether there was any deal. “I hope we can come to an agreement after we make a clear report to [Su].”
Su has ruled out a vice--presidency and downplayed calls for him to run for legislative speaker. There is consensus within DPP circles that Tsai is close to offering Su a key position, possibly as chairperson, in her election campaign.
Throughout the 30-minute session, Su pressed Tsai nine times on what type of “important position” she had planned for him, although he suggested he would willingly accept any role, preferably “to help win the 2012 elections.”
At one point when Tsai was speaking about Su’s past election experience, Su cut in: “So what?” in an apparent allusion to a lack of a concrete offer from Tsai.
“You can tell me directly with no more need for consideration. What job do you want me to do?” he asked.
After Tsai remained unwilling to share such details, Su said he would respect Tsai’s decision.
“We all listen to the candidate. And [Tsai] is the candidate,” he said. “Maybe she hasn’t come to a decision or maybe she needs to consider this some more.”
Sensing the drama being played out in full view of the press, DPP caucus head Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) ended the meeting abruptly.
The back and forth between Tsai and Su came as both are attempting to find out a way for them to work together during the elections next year.
Su had earlier invited Tsai to schedule a meeting, but few had expected that the actual discussions would be so uncomfortable.
Tsai was careful in her speech, so much so that Su told her five times during the session: “Don’t be so polite.”
Nevertheless, the two seemed to agree that next year’s presidential elections would be a difficult race and that more than anything, unity within the party, including among Su’s backers, was essential.
“The elections will be tough; facing a party with enormous assets, administrative experience and resources,” Tsai said. “However, I trust Su will play an important role in this critical time.”
The discussions also confirmed that several of Su’s most trusted staffers would be reassigned to help Tsai’s campaign although it wasn’t immediately clear in what capacity.