Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) yesterday made surprising announcements hours apart that they were dropping out of the party chair election next month, leaving former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) the favorite to win what had been expected to be a fierce three-way race.
Tsai and former Kaohsiung County deputy commissioner Kuo Tai-lin (郭泰麟) will likely be the remaining candidates in the election to determine who will lead the party from this year to 2016.
Su made his announcement at about 8am in a press release, saying that he would not seek re-election because he “could not bear to see the DPP torn apart” by the potentially fierce competition in the biennial election “at the moment when there are a lot of battles to be fought.”
Su was referring to the seven-in-one elections in November, a campaign to stop the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮) and the changing political dynamics following the three-week Sunflower movement.
Su said he had encountered setbacks in building the DPP into what people hoped for, despite its support rate consistently leading the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in the past two years, adding that he was dropping out before the potentially hotly contested election could hurt party unity.
“I have taken a step back, but my effort of fighting for a better Taiwan will never stop,” he said.
Hsieh announced his decision at about 11am, also by a press release, in which he said that it was time to “return power back to the people” after the Sunflower movement and to end the DPP’s factionalism, listen to public’s voice and carry out necessary reforms.
The former premier said he understood Su’s position as both were founding members of the DPP.
Yesterday was the first day that the DPP headquarters began accepting application forms from contenders, with Kuo the only remaining candidate who has completed the required registration work.
Tsai, who served as DPP chairperson between 2008 and 2012, called the decision by Su and Hsieh courageous, and hinted that she would remain in the race.
“As Taiwan is weathering various critical challenges, unity and cooperation will be a shared responsibility for every DPP member and we have to firmly shoulder the task of passing on our legacy, carrying out party reform and engaging in dialogue with society,” Tsai said in a press release.
The DPP must recognize the power of an emerging civil society as shown in the Sunflower movement, and carry out a process of introspection that will redefine the party’s role in society, she added.
Su and Hsieh’s decision won praise from almost all DPP politicians, while the Association of DPP City and County Chapters endorsed Su’s decision in a press conference at the party headquarters.
DPP Legislator Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟), a Hsieh confidante who made waves on Saturday by calling for Su, Hsieh and Tsai to drop out of the race to make room for young politicians, denied that his initiative had anything to do with yesterday’s development.
DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said Su had sacrificed himself for the greater good of the party.
Greater Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊), Greater Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) and former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) also applauded Su and Hsieh’s decision.
However, Lu said that if Tsai wished to run in the presidential election in 2016, she should not have entered the chair election because it would be difficult to serve as chairperson and run a presidential campaign at the same time.
KMT lawmakers had different views on the development, with Legislator Wu Yu-cheng (吳育昇) saying that Su had no choice but to give up his bid because he no longer had strong party support, while Legislator Lu Hsueh-chang (呂學樟) said that Tsai was the biggest beneficiary because she was the mastermind behind the Sunflower movement.
While the DPP had been kept on the sidelines of the Sunflower movement due to its lack of connection with the younger generation and civil society, this quick reaction was commendable, KMT Legislator Su Ching-chuan (蘇清泉) said.