The Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) stance toward independent Taipei mayoral aspirant Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) joining the party appeared to be changing at the urging of several party heavyweights and supporters, as DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) pledged to consolidate the opposition to end the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) 16-year governance over Taipei.
Su on Saturday softened his stance that Ko must be a DPP member and win the primary to secure the party’s support, because the DPP would have to nominate its own candidate, saying that the priority in the election would be defeating the KMT.
Su said that the so-called “Ko Wen-je phenomenon,” which referred to Ko’s popularity as an amateur politician, was indeed “worth our attention.”
However, Su yesterday said that there will not be a “two-phase poll,” a recommendation supported by many that would pair the winner of the DPP’s poll with Ko in the second poll to finalize the opposition camp’s nomination.
“We’re not in a hurry with our nomination because the KMT has yet to finalize its nomination. I guarantee you that the non-KMT forces will cooperate and win the election,” he said.
Su did not elaborate, but appeared to be hinting at a one-and-done poll including the independent in the DPP poll that serves as the party’s primary.
Ko, a physician at National Taiwan University Hospital who has been leading all pan-green camp aspirants in almost every survey, would prefer to run as an independent, despite his pro-DPP background, saying that he would garner more support from the swing voters who resented the DPP.
However, he has been considering joining the DPP, reassured that the party would make its nomination.
Having two pro-green camp candidates in the same Taipei mayoral election is the opposition’s worst nightmare, as the KMT candidate would then likely win easily in the traditional KMT stronghold.
Ko urged the press to stop asking him about joining the DPP, adding that he would drop out of the race if any non-KMT aspirant had a higher support rate.
“Winning is the No. 1 priority and joining the DPP or not is secondary,” Ko said.
Senior DPP politicians, including former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and former legislator Lin Chuo-shui (林濁水), called for the DPP to reconsider its option while former premiers Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃) and Legislator Pasuya Yao (姚文智) supported a two-phase poll.
On Saturday, an alliance of pro-independence groups also called on the DPP to have a “tolerant heart” and “nominate the strongest candidate for the pan-green camp,” which was seen as an endorsement of Ko maintaining his independent status.
The groups suggested that the party postpone its nomination process until the KMT announces its candidate and for the DPP to conduct a national opinion poll on all pan-green camp Taipei mayoral aspirants.
Speaking in Yilan County yesterday, Tsai said the DPP should “take note of the changing social atmosphere and embrace voters’ expectations,” while Yu, also speaking to reporters in Yilan, said that the two-phase poll format was not unprecedented for the DPP.
He said that the DPP in 2001 had its candidate for the Chiayi County commissioner election, Ho Chia-jung (何嘉榮), enter a second poll with Chen Ming-wen (陳明文), who left the KMT and ran as an independent, eventually making Chen the final candidate representing the pan-green camp. Chen won the election.