Fri, Oct 07, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Lai visits north, sets off rumors of mayoral run

TWIN CITIES:The Tainan mayor’s visit to temples in Taipei and New Taipei City sparked speculation about his next goal and other DPP mayoral aspirants

By Su Fang-ho, Yang Chun-hui and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Tainan Mayor William Lai, right, receives a birthday cake from Baoan Temple chairman Liao Wu-jyh in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Kuo An-chia, Taipei Times

Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) yesterday embarked on a two-day tour of temples in northern Taiwan to express his gratitude for their assistance after the deadly earthquake that struck the south in February.

However, his trip has sparked speculation that he is visiting New Taipei City with an eye on running for the city’s top office in 2018.

After visiting seven temples in Taipei and one in New Taipei City’s Tamsui District (淡水) yesterday, Lai is scheduled to visit several more in New Taipei City today, including Jian Temple (濟安宮) in Shulin District (樹林).

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) mayor will be setting foot on the electoral district of DPP Legislator Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡), who is believed to be aiming for the mayoral post as well.

Sources said that Lai has maintained a political network in his native New Taipei City through clan and faith-based organizations, an impression bolstered this year on the presidential inauguration on May 20, when he brought 600 Tainan residents for a “single-day tour” of his old home in the city’s Wanli District (萬里).

At the time, Lai said he had no intention to run for New Taipei City mayor in 2018.

Lai’s temple visits will allow him to connect with larger groups of potential voters and have closer interaction with them compared with his last visit in May.

Commenting on the rumors, a Tainan City Government public relations official said Lai is visiting New Taipei City only to thank the temples that had contributed the highest amounts to Tainan after the earthquake.

Describing the trip as “low-key,” the official said the visit was arranged because Lai happened to have to meet central government officials that day.

“People should not read too much politics into it,” the official added.

New Taipei City is the nation’s most populous special municipality, and several DPP politicians are already maneuvering to run in the mayoral race in 2018.

Former premier Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃), leader of the Taiwan Normal Country Promotion Association — which is also known as the “Yu faction” — has reportedly visited local notables in New Taipei City, although he has neither confirmed nor denied the possibility that he would make another run for city mayor.

Other DPP politicians aiming for the post include a “Yu faction” comrade, DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬); Wu, who is known to belong to former premier Su Tseng-chang’s (蘇貞昌) faction; and Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), commonly viewed as a member of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) “Ing clique.” Lai belongs to the former “New Tide” faction.

Although the party’s factions were officially disbanded in 2006, most DPP politicians maintain loose alliances that share close ideologies.

Last week, singer Yu Tien (余天), the director of the DPP’s New Taipei City chapter and believed to favor the Yu faction, said in a radio interview that he would endorse Lai as the DPP candidate for Taipei in 2018.

Yu Tien’s remark added fire to rumors that the mayoral hopefuls are jockeying for position.

The fact that Lai will move through multiple electoral districts represented by DPP lawmakers of the Su faction is significant, because it suggests some form of “friendly understanding” between the DPP politicians is in play, allowing Lai to “test the waters” without worrying about “trespassing” into the territories of party comrades, sources said.

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