DPP reaches decision on candidates

PULL TOGETHER: At the DPP’s National Convention yesterday Tsai Ing-wen called for party unity over the nominations for the municipality elections at the end of the year

By RICH CHANG  /  STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

Mon, Jan 25, 2010 - Page 1

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) decided yesterday that its candidates for the year-end municipality elections would be chosen through public opinion polls, with all candidates to be announced by the end of May.

The decision was reached during the party’s National Convention held in Taipei yesterday, favoring the option supported by the party’s Central Executive Committee. DPP primaries usually take into consideration party member votes and public opinion polls. But the committee passed draft regulations on Jan. 13 stating that DPP nominees for the municipalities where the party holds power should be selected through public opinion polls.

Some party members disagreed, calling for a combination of polls and party primaries to decide the nominees.

DPP Taipei branch director Huang Ching-lin (黃慶林), who was in favor of the latter, proposed several times yesterday a vote on the nomination system.

But after negotiations, the Convention reached the conclusion that candidates for five mayoral elections and councilors in five municipalities be decided by public opinion polls.

At the convention, DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) called for party unity.

“The party must not split or be weakened over the nominations for five municipality elections,” she said.

The five municipalities include Taipei City, an upgrade of Taipei County to the status of a municipality like Taipei City, and mergers of Taichung City and county, Tainan City and county and Kaohsiung City and county.

With the number of eligible voters accounting for more than 60 percent of the country’s electorate, the municipality elections are widely regarded as an indicator for the 2012 presidential election

The draft regulations passed by the Central Executive Committee also suggested that the municipalities where the party holds power be selected by the end of May. The committee’s decision has been criticized by some members, who believe that the party could suffer in the elections as result of late nominations.

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) and Kaohsiung County Commissioner Yang Chiu-hsing (楊秋興), who have both campaigned for the party’s nomination as candidates for the merged Kaohsiung city and county, held different views on the timing of nominations.

Chen said she wanted the Kaohsiung nomination to be decided by March because “the earlier the party decides its candidate, the better the chance of the party winning the mayorship.”

Yang said he favored a nomination announcement at the end of May with the other four municipalities, as the party’s Central Executive Committee suggested.

“Chen Chu and I both need more time to visit Kaohsiung City and Kaohsiung County,” Yang said.

Tsai said the party would not rule out announcing candidates early if a consensus was reached among the hopefuls for a particular municipality.

Meanwhile, former DPP chairmen Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃) and Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said yesterday they would support incumbent DPP chairwoman Tsai if she decides to seek re-election after her term expires in May.

The issue of the DPP chairmanship election arose on the sidelines of the national convention after it was reported that Hsieh was planning to run for the party chair in May.

Surrounded by reporters before the meeting, Hsieh denied the reports and said he would throw his weight behind Tsai if she sought re-election as party leader.

Yu said he was not aware of any plans on Hsieh’s part to run for the DPP chairmanship, but added that every party member has the right to make a bid for the post.

Yu said it would be natural for Tsai to seek re-election, as she has gained widespread support among DPP members after leading the party to victories in the recent legislative by-elections and local mayor and councilor elections.

However, DPP Policy Committee chief executive Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said there could be no meaningful discussion of the chairmanship issue until the incumbent reveals her intentions.

Ker said he expected Tsai would make her position clear after the Feb. 27 legislative by-elections. If she wants to seek re-election, no one could justifiably challenge her, he said.