DPP’s Tsai to run for president

READY TO RUN::To increase DPP legislative seats and to upset Ma’s re-election bid, Tsai emphasized party unity regardless of how people voted in the primaries

By Vincent Y. Chao  /  Staff Reporter

Thu, Apr 28, 2011 - Page 1

Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) will be nominated by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to run in next year’s presidential election, becoming the first woman in the nation’s history to run for the post.

Her narrow win in the part primaries means she will go on to run against President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), four years after he trounced the DPP in a landslide vote on policies of economic growth and closer cross-strait ties.

While Tsai is all but certain to take the nomination, the final announcement will not take place until May 4 — when the DPP’s Central Standing Committee meets.

“I officially recognize and congratulate Tsai Ing-wen’s win,” said Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), the acting DPP chairperson while Tsai is taking a leave of absence.

“The verdict today marks the start of a new round of cooperation, but also new challenges and responsibilities,” Ker said.

Results of the official telephone polls — comparative surveys that were conducted on Monday and Tuesday — were disclosed by the DPP at noon yesterday.

They gave Tsai a higher support rating when matched against Ma than former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌).

In the DPP-commissioned surveys, both candidates led Ma, but Tsai took 42.5 percent to Ma’s 35 percent, while Su defeated Ma 41.1 percent to 33.8 percent, reflecting what for both were tightly fought primaries, with the two neck-and-neck in previous non-official polls.

Tsai and Su were closely matched, but under the party’s regulations the candidate with the higher support rating was declared the winner.

The disclosure brings to an end to a two-month race that remained restrained and civil amid a focus on uniting the party for the election. Su said afterwards that he respected the results and called for his supporters to back Tsai.

The victory for Tsai, a former law professor, broke gender barriers and represented a remarkable rise for a person who only joined the DPP seven years ago.

Tsai will face tough competition against Ma, whose administration has assailed her policies — from phasing out nuclear power to -favoring a more cautious -cross-strait -approach — as ideologically based and detached from current realities.

She will have seven months to convince voters before the combined elections take place in January next year.

“From this point forward, we only have one target. That is to unite the DPP and unite Taiwan, and to fight together to win next year’s legislative and presidential elections,” Tsai said in prepared remarks hours after the win. “Everybody in this party and the Taiwanese public must take on this heavy burden and win back Taiwan.”

Tsai has favored a more moderate China policy that she has described as more stable and consistent.

Early in the primaries, she also proposed phasing out -nuclear -energy by 2025 if alternative sources of energy can be found — a move that has attracted criticism from both inside and outside the DPP.

She has spearheaded the DPP’s “10-year master plan,” a paper on how the party plans to tackle future challenges, such as an aging population, environmental degradation and cross-strait policy, which is expected to play a key part in her campaign.

However, her first priority appears to center on ensuring that the party is united. Tsai used most of her prepared remarks yesterday to emphasize the need for DPP supporters to rally together, regardless of how they voted in the primaries, to increase the DPP’s seats in the legislature and to upset Ma’s re-election bid.

She expressed gratitude to Su and former DPP chairperson Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良), the third candidate, bowing and thanking them for their contributions to the party. The two are “irreplaceable assets,” she said.

“In the shortest time possible, I will round up our party’s talent and [ability], regardless of which camp they belonged to in the primaries. We are all part of the DPP,” Tsai said.

Su’s immediate endorsement of Tsai will likely alleviate some of the concerns that the primary would split the party. Su had commanded support from large swaths of the party’s old guard and younger tech-savvy voters.

Tensions were only heightened twice during the two-month primary.

Tsai’s campaign team had called on DPP supporters to “only support” Tsai — implicitly asking them to vote for Ma against Su in the comparative polls — and a leak of some early poll numbers took place on Monday, with allegations that Tsai’s campaign team was the source.

However, she emerged relatively unscathed from these events, downplaying the “only support” slogan, while a spokesperson denied the leak.

If elected, she will become Taiwan’s first female president. The highest government post previously held by a woman was when former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) was elected on the DPP ticket in 2000 and again in 2004.

Pro-independence leader Koo Kwang-ming (辜寬敏), a former presidential advisor who had a falling out with Tsai, said he “unequivocally supports Tsai Ing-wen without reservations,” at a separate press conference yesterday.

With the primaries now over, the focus is expected to turn to who Tsai will select as a running mate. The decision is expected sometime after May 4, when the nomination is confirmed, campaign officials said.

Former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and DPP secretary-general Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) have been floated as possible candidates. Su Tseng-chang has rejected the vice presidency outright, as well as any other role, such as DPP caucus head or legislative speaker.

“It’s too early. A decision will take a few weeks,” said Hsu Chia-ching (徐佳青), a Tsai spokesperson.

Tsai is expected to resume her duties as chairperson of the party shortly after May 4, ending the extended leave of absence she took to campaign for the primary.