Ma appoints Simon Chang as premier

EASY RIDE?:When asked why he took the role, the former vice premier said that the DPP had promised it would not give Cabinet members a tough time

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Jan 26, 2016 - Page 1

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday appointed Vice Premier Simon Chang (張善政) as the new premier after Ma signed off on outgoing Premier Mao Chi-kuo’s (毛治國) resignation.

“Premier Mao has led his Cabinet members to resign en masse. After thorough consideration, President Ma has decided to sign off on Mao’s resignation and appoint Chang as his successor,” Presidential Office spokesman Charles Chen (陳以信) said in a statement yesterday.

Chen said that while it is the president’s mandate to appoint a premier without the legislature’s approval, Ma is obligated by a consensus reached between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) when an amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1997 to respect the majority party in the legislature and appoint a premier it accepts to prevent the government from running idle.

To adhere to this principle, Chen said Ma tried to contact DPP Chairperson and president-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday to discuss Mao’s successor, but Tsai was occupied with other matters.

Instead, Ma requested that Presidential Office Secretary-General Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) call former DPP secretary-general Lin Hsi-yao (林錫耀) to sound out Tsai’s opinion on the matter, Chen said.

“Lin said on the telephone on behalf of Tsai that she does not have any opinion regarding the premier appointed by President Ma in accordance with his constitutional mandate, and that she would respect his decision,” Chen said, adding that Ma subsequently appointed Chang as the new premier.

Chang’s appointment came after Ma’s failed attempts to persuade Tsai into having her party — which won 68 seats in the 113-seat legislature in the Jan. 16 elections — form a Cabinet before her inauguration on May 20.

Tsai officially turned down Ma’s offer on Sunday, saying it could cause confusions of responsibility.

At an afternoon news conference at the Executive Yuan after the announcement of his appointment, Chang pledged to stick to his post, cooperate with his colleagues and steer the nation toward a better future.

Asked why he decided to assume the premiership, despite indicating otherwise last week, Chang said he had worried that he might not be respected by the new legislature that is to be sworn in on Monday next week and that it might be a waste of time to take up a job that is set to expire four months later.

“However, the DPP has promised not to give Cabinet members a hard time and I also feel that we should still do our jobs right in the next four months,” Chang said.

Chang also announced a minor Cabinet reshuffle involving five ministers, including National Development Council Minister Woody Duh (杜紫軍), who succeeded him as vice premier; Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Lin Chu-chia (林祖嘉), who filled the vacancy left by Duh; Financial Supervisory Commission Vice Chairwoman Jennifer Wang (王儷玲), who was promoted to head the commission; Vice Minister of Agriculture Chen Tze-ching (陳志清), who assumed the council’s ministership; and Executive Yuan Science and Technology Advisory Group executive secretary Chung Char-dir (鐘嘉德), who replaced Minister Without Portfolio Yan Hong-sen (顏鴻森).

Chang holds a master’s degree in civil engineering from Stanford University and a doctoral degree in the same discipline from Cornell University. He served as the head of search engine giant Google Inc’s Asia-Pacific hardware operations and is a former minister without portfolio.

Additional reporting by Chung Li-hua