With Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) due to step down at the end of the month and the next major election two years away, the DPP has been scrambling to find its next party leader.
Many DPP politicians were mentioned as possible contenders as discussions heated up after Tsai’s resignation following her loss in the presidential election last month, but the party has yet to determine the direction in which its leadership should be heading.
Discussions have centered on whether the party should undergo a generational shift and let the young generation take over or retain a seasoned senior politician as its leader.
Former Tainan county commissioner Su Huan-chih (蘇煥智) and former DPP legislator Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮) have publicly announced their intentions to run in the chairperson election on May 27.
Academia Sinica Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), who previously served as National Science Council minister and health minister, and former finance minister Lin Chuan (林全) have both denied being interested in the position.
Greater Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) and Greater Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊), regarded as the DPP’s next star politicians, both said they preferred to concentrate on their current positions and were not interested in running.
Rumors inside the party said former premiers Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) could enter the race or designate their close allies to run and make the election a “proxy war.”
A DPP official who wished to remain anonymous said he believed the position was Su’s for the taking if the former premier decided to run, because Su’s faction was “too strong for other factions to stop.”
However, Su and Hsieh have been quiet about their intentions.
Su could postpone his announcement to show respect to Tsai, who is scheduled to step down on March 1, and to weigh his options if most party members were opposed to old-guard leadership, the official said.
Former DPP chairperson Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良) and former Examination Yuan president Yao Chia-wen (姚嘉文) said the next party leader should not be thinking about the presidential election and called for presidential aspirants to stay out of the chairperson election, which was interpreted by some as an “anti-Su” position.
The most important job for the next DPP leader, they said, was to spearhead the party’s transformation of its structure and China policy and prepare it for the challenge of the next presidential election.
Meanwhile, some DPP members said they did not think Tsai, who remains popular among party supporters, should be kept on the sidelines, saying that the DPP should change its party charter to allow her to serve a third consecutive term as chairperson, a view shared by Chen Fang-ming (陳芳明), director of National Chengchi University’s Graduate Institute of Taiwanese Literature and a political analyst.
Former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) has voiced her opposition to a generational shift, saying that last month’s presidential election proved the change had been a failure.
The next DPP chairperson, who would serve a two-year term from this year to 2014, will be tasked with winning the elections for counties, cities and the five special municipalities.
Most analysts said the position of DPP chairperson between 2014 and 2016 would be more attractive for presidential aspirants, since the chairperson would play a pivotal role in determining the rules for the party’s presidential primary.