Although the period of tenure for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairperson is only two years, over the past 20 years seven party chairpersons quit before their terms were up and only four have served out the full two-year term.
Election results are a major reason why party chairpersons have stepped down before their terms were up, showing that the political risk of being the DPP chairperson is quite high, political analysts said.
After the position was established in 1986, the DPP’s first two party chairmen, Chiang Peng-chien (江鵬堅) and Yao Chia-wen (姚嘉文), both served their full terms in office, although at the time the term of office was only one year.
Huang Hsin-chieh (黃信介), the third and fourth DPP chairman from 1988 to 1991, is to date the only person to have lasted a full two terms in office.
Succeeding Huang was Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良), who became the first DPP chairman to step down from office to take responsibility for poor electoral performance.
Prior to the March 1993 county commissioner and city mayor elections, Hsu had said that if the DPP did not take half of the total seats, he would step down. Although the DPP had six county commissioners and city mayors elected, with 41 percent of the vote, and also successfully took then-Tainan County, the DPP lost Changhua and Pingtung County.
Shih Ming-te (施明德) was elected as the party’s sixth-term chairman, but he too also resigned from office after the DPP’s presidential and vice presidential candidates Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) and Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) lost in Taiwan’s first direct presidential election in 1996.
Shih’s words at the time, “the party chairperson should step down for losing the election,” have since attained the status of an unwritten party rule.
Hsu was once again elected as the seventh-term party chairman and this time stayed in office for the full term, in part thanks to the DPP’s victory in the 1997 elections, when it won 12 county commissioners and city mayor posts.
In 1998, the DPP chairperson election was changed from indirect election to direct election by party members and Lin I-hsiung (林義雄) became the first chairman to be directly elected.
After helping Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) win the March 2000 presidential election, Lin, citing American poet Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken as an expression of his ideals, became the first party chairman to step down after the party won an election.
Hsieh was elected in June 2000 to become the party’s ninth chairman and he served a full term.
In 2002, Chen doubled up as president and the 10th DPP chairperson, and completed his term. However, after being elected as the 11th-term chairman, Chen resigned shortly after the party failed in its goal of gaining half the seats in the Legislative Yuan in the 2004 legislative elections.
Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) became party chairperson after a re-election for the 11th-term party chairperson in Feb 2005, but he also stepped down from the position in December that year after the party lost the Taipei and Yilan county commissioner seats in the mayoral elections.
The second re-election for the party’s 11th-term chairperson in January 2006 saw Yu Shyi-kun elected, but Yu announced in September 2007 he was stepping down after being indicted over his use of the special allowance fund during his tenure as Yilan county commissioner from 1989 to 1997.