Everything has been proceeding as planned for former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), tipped as the favorite to win the May 27 Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairperson election, despite what looks like the other candidates repeatedly ganging up to attack him.
While the senior politician might have disapproved of the collaborative “anti-Su” effort of the last televised debate on Saturday, he remained unruffled by a series of accusations which questioned his integrity and even his humanity — perhaps because he knows he is too strong to be defeated.
Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良), a former DPP chairperson, said that in 1982, Su, as a provincial councilor in the now-defunct Taiwan provincial assembly, had rejected a request by then-Taiwan provincial governor Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) to skip a question-and-answer session to see his son, who had died that day.
Former DPP legislator Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮) said in the debate 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 appeared to have made up his mind to play down the criticism, saying he had tried to reform himself over the years to make up for his past “thoughtlessness and brashness.”
Party officials, analysts and aides of the other candidates privately acknowledged that the candidates had only made the “disruptive” attacks to “make Su look bad” and to neutralize Su’s legitimacy should he win the election, which is seen as the likely result.
While Su has denounced the campaign against him, a party official said on condition of anonymity that the four anti-Su candidates in the election was a blessing in disguise for the former premier because “they split the anti-Su vote.”
The chairperson position is important for any DPP presidential hopeful as the party leader will play a pivotal role in deciding the primary and nomination process, as well as the nominations for elections at various levels, which would be critical in empowering their own faction.
This is why analysts said interim DPP Chairperson Chen Chu (陳菊), who is mayor of Greater Kaohsiung, has no intention to vie for the party’s presidential nomination in 2016, because she announced she would not run for the full-time chairperson job.
Su, who was the DPP’s vice-presidential candidate in the 2008 presidential election, has not publicly expressed a desire to run in 2016, but his peers are very suspicious about his ambitions.
Although the former premier remains very popular with DPP supporters, some DPP politicians and allies are reluctant to see Su take the party helm.
Pro-independence groups have always had doubts about Su’s position on China, with former Control Yuan president Yao Chia-wen (姚嘉文) saying that Su “had never said anything about Taiwan independence or associated with independence supporters.”
When a series of scandals broke out during Su’s tenure as premier under former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), Su was the first DPP official to “distance himself from Chen,” Yao said, which left a bad taste in the mouths of hardline Chen supporters.
Tsai’s supporters also say that Su would block her from making another run for the presidency if he becomes chairperson.
“It seems to me that Su either made some unwise political decisions or made some of his decisions at the wrong time,” an aide to a senior DPP heavyweight, who wished to be anonymous, said of Su’s unpopularity within the party.