A secret late-night meeting between Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and central bank Governor Perng Fai-nan (彭淮南) has fueled fresh speculation about a joint ticket for next year’s election.
Despite initial denials, both have since confirmed that the gathering took place on Thursday night at Tsai’s Taipei City residence.
Seventy-two-year-old Perng, the central bank governor since 1998, has been considered fit as a running mate for Tsai by some members in the pan-green camp, as they seek to boast her economic and financial portfolio in the upcoming campaign.
The DPP sought to downplay the speculation yesterday, with Perng also releasing a statement calling the meeting a get-together between old friends. However, other DPP members remained optimistic that a partnership was in the works.
“[I’m] hopeful that it will come true,” DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) said. “Perng is a good choice and a good candidate, regardless of whether he becomes a running mate or plays an important [role] in a future [DPP] administration.”
Since the DPP primaries last month, rumors have been swirling over Tsai’s vice presidential pick.
Reports have listed administrative experience and an economics or business affairs background as some of Tsai’s key considerations, supplementing areas where she has consistently lagged behind President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in public polls.
However, the DPP has remained low-key on potential candidates for the position, with DPP Secretary-General Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) also considered a possibility. Approached for comment, Tsai was only willing to say that ideas were exchanged during the meeting.
“Perng is a respected [economist] and on Thursday night I mainly asked his opinion about economic trends for Taiwan and the world,” Tsai said. “I hope that [people] can stop playing up this topic of a running mate.”
She said she was willing to apologize for any trouble caused to Perng over the controversy — and emphasized that a vice president would have to be accepted by the entire party.
The subject is a touchy one for Perng, a central bank governor who has outlasted both Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and DPP administrations.
He told the legislature in March that the post would be his last public position — remarks that he also repeated yesterday.
In a statement, he called the meeting a routine get-together between old acquaintances and asked the media to refrain from “overly speculative assumptions.”
KMT politicians and government officials have also seized on his earlier promise to the legislature as reason to discount a possible match-up.
“I don’t think he will slap himself in the mouth,” KMT Legislator Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) said. “Based on his age and experience … wouldn’t it be good to keep a clean reputation and retire with pride?”
Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), rumored to be a possible running mate for Ma, yesterday said that he did not make much of the meeting between Perng and Tsai.
“[Whether Perng will pair up with Tsai] is up to him … but now that he has made things clearer in the [released] statement, people should not bother him,” Wu said.
Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan