Former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) won election as chairperson again yesterday by a landslide, taking a symbolic step forward in her quest to run for president in 2016.
Tsai defeated former Kaohsiung county deputy commissioner Kuo Tai-lin (郭泰麟) by 85,410 (93.71 percent) votes to 5,734 (6.29 percent), DPP spokesperson Xavier Chang (張惇涵) said at a press conference yesterday evening, hours after the poll closed.
The turnout rate for the poll was 65.16 percent.
“I’m well aware of the duties of the next DPP chairperson and that is why I took part in the election. I hope that I can help the party regain the public’s trust and find a new direction and momentum for Taiwan,” Tsai said in a press release issued after her victory was confirmed.
“And those things will not happen until the DPP makes a change,” she added.
Tsai pledged two directions for the DPP — a more open-minded approach to its work with civic groups and a DPP led by a younger generation of politicians, adding that the two goals would be crucial for reconnecting the party with Taiwanese, in particular after the Sunflower movement.
The 57-year-old is scheduled to begin her third two-year tenure as DPP chairperson following her previous two terms from 2008 to 2012, during which she helped the DPP regain momentum and people’s trust en route to a competitive presidential election in 2012, despite ending up on the losing side.
The DPP election, which began as a four-person race, became a head-to-head battle between Tsai and Kuo after outgoing DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) dropped out of the election on April 15.
The two senior politicians yesterday said that Tsai’s imminent return to DPP headquarters would hopefully enable a successful reform of the party.
However, Hsieh said that his view — that a chairman should not double as a presidential candidate — remains unchanged.
The position was Kuo’s primary platform during his campaign, with the challenger repeatedly asking Tsai to promise that she would not run in the 2016 presidential election if she was elected chairperson.
Acknowledging the clear result, Kuo offered his concession before the DPP headquarters announced final vote counts.
Several aides of Tsai, who is widely seen as the favorite to secure the DPP’s presidential nomination next year, had advised her against running for the chairperson’s role because of the role’s complicated nature and the potential harm the position could do to her presidential bid.
Tsai entered the race because the DPP was unable to garner wider support from the public, despite low approval ratings for President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
Tsai is not likely to have an easy time early in her role as chairperson, as the KMT is preparing to push through the Legislative Yuan a series of amendments related to the cross-strait service trade agreement, free economic pilot zones and a mechanism monitoring all cross-strait agreements before the current session concludes, and the DPP will need Tsai to coordinate counter actions.
In addition to the chairperson vote, elections for directors of local party chapters, national representatives, Aboriginal representatives and local representatives were also held yesterday.
A total of 143,527 party members were eligible to vote in the elections, the DPP said.