Greater Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) was appointed acting chairperson of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday to fill the void left by outgoing DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).
The veteran politician is set to take over the party helm on March 1 to serve out the remainder of Tsai’s term, which runs until May 20.
Chen, who is visiting Miami, Florida, and is scheduled to return to Taiwan on Monday, said in a statement that she gladly accepted the responsibility.
“The first priority is to stabilize and ‘reset’ the DPP after the election loss so the party can move on and continue its fight for Taiwan’s democratic development,” Chen said.
The Greater Kaohsiung mayor received unanimous support at the party’s Central Executive Committee meeting. One of her most important tasks will be the organization of the chairperson election, which is scheduled to take place on May 27.
The other important item on the meeting’s agenda was the finalization of Tsai’s election review.
Tsai called an impromptu press conference after the meeting to deliver what is likely to be her last major speech before stepping down.
The 55-year-old said she was deeply touched by the emotional drain felt by some of her supporters, who had a hard time recovering emotionally after the election loss last month.
“The emotional engagement of our supporters in the election will not be forgotten by this party. The DPP and I would like to once again express our gratitude to our supporters,” she told the press conference.
The DPP “will move on and pick up where it left off,” Tsai said.
The impact of the “economic stability card” that Beijing and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) played during the final two weeks of the presidential election campaign was undeniable, she said.
The biggest lesson the DPP learned from the setback is that it needs to formulate a new strategy and policy toward China, she said.
The DPP should seek to engage with China and increase bilateral exchanges to better understand the nation’s powerful neighbor, because “you cannot understand China by sitting at home.”
However, that cannot be done until the party establishes a mechanism to prepare DPP members for Beijing’s “united front” tactics, she added.
Tsai said there was no need for the DPP to negate its accomplishments simply because of the election loss.
“After all, 6.09 million people voted for the DPP. Their passion and the increased share of the vote suggested that the DPP must have done something right during the past four years,” she said.
As the head of the DPP, Tsai said she took full responsibility for her mismanagement on several election issues, such as personnel, nominations, the establishment of her campaign team, campaign strategy and communication.
Beijing kept adjusting its strategy of interference in the election, DPP spokesperson Lin Yu-chang (林右昌) told reporters at a briefing, adding that China no longer resorts to military threats to influence Taiwan, but that it is looking to achieve its goals by economic means.
“Taiwanese do have doubts about Beijing’s motives and the KMT’s ability to safeguard Taiwan’s sovereignty, but the second option [other than the KMT] has been lacking,” Lin said.
The DPP’s primary goal in the future is to provide Taiwanese with an option that makes them financially and economically secure, without too much dependence on the Chinese economy, Lin said.