Former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), the hotly tipped favorite in the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) chairperson election, was on the defensive yesterday in the final televised debate ahead of the May 27 vote, after his detractors focused on a series of incidents that brought into question his integrity and humanity.
The heated discussion between the five candidates was led by former DPP chairperson Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良), who was accused of turning the political contest into an “anti-Su” event.
Last Sunday, Hsu said that as a provincial councilor in the now-defunct Taiwan provincial assembly in 1982, Su had rejected a request by then-Taiwan provincial government chairman Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) to skip a question-and-answer session to see his son, who had died that day.
Su’s office, alongside a number of politicians and historians, dismissed the accusations and said what Hsu said contained factual errors.
However, Hsu yesterday reiterated the authenticity of the accusation, saying that the story had been circulating among former provincial councilors for years despite the fact that he may have stated the details incorrectly.
Former DPP legislator Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮) repeated his accusation that Su unilaterally decided to run in the 2010 Taipei mayoral election, leaving then-DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) with no choice but to run in New Taipei City (新北市), where the DPP had planned to nominate Su.
Su would not be a good leader for the party because of his “dishonesty, detriment to party unity and high possibility of the New Tide faction’s continuous dominance of the DPP’s national headquarters,” Chai said.
The former premier chose not to respond to Hsu’s accusation on stage, but answered Chai’s criticisms, saying that he only “expressed his wish to run in Taipei and later had fought a glorious battle in the election.”
Forbearance and an encouraging mentality are imperative for the DPP, Su said, adding that he had tried to adjust himself over the years to make up for his “thoughtlessness and brashness” in the past.
Su sidestepped another hot issue in the debate, which addressed whether or not he intended to run in the 2016 presidential election. Su said that for now his candidacy is not an issue.
The public would not like a party talking about the 2016 presidential election when it lost this year’s election just four months ago, he said.
Su added that the only thing on his mind was to do a good job as party chairperson during the two-year term and to win the 2014 seven-in-one elections, which would lay the foundation for the DPP’s prospects for winning the “big one” in 2016.
The other four candidates, including former vice premier Wu Rong-i (吳榮義) and former Tainan County commissioner Su Huan-chih (蘇煥智), pledged not to run in 2016 with Hsu publicly endorsing Tsai’s second try for the presidency.
With much of the attention focused on Su, platforms presented by the candidates to reform the DPP and the party’s China policy were barely mentioned.
All candidates called for party unity and agreed that the DPP should strengthen its organization at the grassroots level. They also said the DPP would have to increase collaboration and communication with civic groups and “stand on the same side as the people.”
They also shared similar views on the party’s future direction, saying that the DPP should recover the long lost spirit of its political heyday, when it was a party that would do whatever it takes to fight for its ideals and social justice.