Showing signs of confidence at the prospect of winning next month’s presidential election, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has planned ahead for her potential presidential transition period.
Over the past two weeks, the DPP chairperson has laid out what she would do during the four-month transition period, the longest presidential transition in Taiwan’s history, between the election on Jan. 14 and the inauguration on May 20.
Having advocated a moderate China policy throughout her campaign based on her “Taiwan consensus” initiative, Tsai’s plan would not see her wait until after the inauguration to start extending olive branches to China.
“Although there are constraints on our interactions with Chinese interlocutors during the election, we will be proactive in seeking dialogue and stabilizing the relationship immediately following the election and throughout the transition period,” she said in a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 22.
While her “Taiwan consensus” initiative has been described by some as “vague” and China has publicly spoken out against it, Tsai still believes a consensus among the Taiwanese is the first step to ending partisan divisions before negotiating with Beijing.
She was also “open-minded” about engagement with China and does not rule out visiting China, if invited, as long as no unreasonable prerequisites are attached, Tsai told the BBC in an interview published online on Nov. 25.
However, there would be more to do during any potential transition period than just trying to forge better relations with Beijing as Taiwan is facing numerous domestic issues, including slow economic growth, an increasing wealth gap and an aging society, meaning there would be no time to waste.
That explains why Tsai, if elected, plans to sit down with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who is seeking re-election, after the polls to discuss the economic situation, she told members of the Taiwan Association of Machinery Industry in Greater Taichung on Nov. 25.
Tsai said she would immediately launch a full-scale review of the national budget and cut funds for expensive and meaningless programs so that public finances could be used to help the unemployed and companies that fall victim to the global financial crisis and the sluggish economy.
Fireworks set off to celebrate specific holidays, among other things, would be scrapped, she said.
While many people would find it difficult to oppose Tsai’s plans, they could be difficult to achieve since the revision of the national budget has to clear the legislature, which the KMT currently influences by a two-thirds majority and it is likely to continue to be the largest party after next month’s legislative elections.
“Regardless of how many seats the DPP is going to win, we are going to do what we think is right,” a senior aide in charge of public policy affairs for Tsai’s campaign said.
However, some of the transition period cannot be planned for in advance.
In the past, the presidential election has been held on March 20 and the president-elect has been sworn in on May 20. Ma’s decision to combine the presidential and legislative elections extends the transition period to about four months.
This period could bring about challenging issues, with academics recently expressing concerns over whether there should be an en masse resignation of the Cabinet, whether the military remains neutral, who the president-elect should nominate as premier and whether the caretaker government will refrain from making major policy changes.