Former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairperson Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良) submitted an 11th-hour presidential bid before registration closed yesterday, making him the third candidate to vie for the DPP ticket.
Hsu, a vocal critic of former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) administration, said that while he realized he had a slim chance of winning, his bid would draw light to issues including growing income disparity and poverty.
“This is not the first time I have done this and my goal is to make society care about the issues I hold close to my heart,” he said. “This is my motive; I have no other motives.”
The former democracy activist arrived unannounced at DPP headquarters just after 3pm, signing registration papers and paying the NT$5 million (US$170,000) fee, which he had borrowed earlier in the day. This means that Hsu will be able to join the four televised DPP policy sessions and polls to be held next month.
Hsu has a somewhat mixed -reputation within the DPP, which he headed for two terms, from 1992 to 1993 and 1996 to 1998. Disillusioned with Chen, Hsu launched an independent presidential bid in 2000 and stumped for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in 2004.
However, he supported DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) in 2008 and rejoined the party after Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was elected chairperson in May that year.
During his announcement, Hsu praised Tsai and Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), the DPP’s two presidential frontrunners, who registered earlier this week, calling them “talented.”
He said that if either was elected next year, “I’m sure they would make a very good president.”
“However, I feel they need to do some rethinking on some of their basic [positions],” he said.
In a four-page statement given to the media, Hsu outlined his positions on social welfare and cross-strait relations, saying that deeper economic ties with China would benefit Taiwan’s tourism industry and the stock market.
“If the next Taiwanese president impedes Taiwan’s economic interests because of politics, they would not be a good president, regardless of how they or their supporters try to spin it,” he said.
Hsu’s participation in the DPP primaries will throw a curveball in what was to be a straightforward contest between Tsai and Su. Despite what he calls his slim chances of being elected, Hsu will nevertheless be in a position to play a major part in future policy sessions and be included in the telephone polls to select the candidate.
Several senior party officials were reportedly concerned over Hsu’s inclusion in the DPP primaries, fearing he could serve as a wildcard in upcoming negotiations between Tsai and Su.
Hsu has said he would not campaign over the next month, but he is expected to participate in the four televised policy sessions.
Initially, Hsu had hoped to register sooner, but was impeded by a lack of money, he said.
The NT$5 million fee — two-thirds of which would be returned if he dropped out of the race — was “borrowed from a friend,” he said, and would have to be repaid.
Asked to comment on Hsu’s entry in the race, Tsai said that though she found it surprising, she welcomed his participation in the primaries.
For his part, Su said that he hoped the primaries would proceed “without controversy.”
Su refused to say whether Hsu’s participation on the ballot could impact the telephone polls.