Former Keelung mayor Lee Chin-yung (李進勇) yesterday became the latest Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) member to join the party’s primary in southern Taiwan, heating up the competition for posts in the party’s traditional stronghold.
Lee officially announced his intention to run for Yunlin County commissioner in the seven-in-one elections next year — one day after Greater Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) confirmed that he would seek re-election.
Lee Chin-yung’s announcement set up a potentially fierce three-way battle in Yunlin with DPP Legislator-at-large Lee Ying-yuan (李應元), who announced his bid in the party primary on June 5, and DPP Legislator Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國), who is also reportedly interested in entering the race, but has not made a public announcement.
Lee, who made his announcement in Yunlin, was endorsed by Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬), giving him an edge over other candidates. However, DPP headquarters has not finalized the primary’s format for the seven-in-one elections, and its previous attempt to negotiate a settlement between the potential aspirants failed.
The DPP has to decide whether to keep the current party primary format using public polls or readopt its old primary format, which uses a mixture of voting by members (30 percent) and public polls (70 percent) to select nominees.
The situation in Greater Tainan, Greater Kaohsiung and Chiayi County is relatively clear-cut: Aside from Lai, incumbents Chen Chu (陳菊) in Greater Kaohsiung and Helen Chang (張花冠) in Chiayi are all seeking re-election without strong challengers. However, competition in other southern cities and counties promise to be more challenging as more candidates join the race.
While the DPP is not overly concerned about the elections in the south, where it is expected to win most constituencies, picking the right candidate is still difficult, said a DPP official, who wished to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.
“We are having problems fielding candidates in northern Taiwan, in particular in Taipei and New Taipei City (新北市), but in the south, ironically, we are also having problems with too many aspirants hoping to run in the same constituencies where we have strong chances of winning, such as in Changhua County, Yunlin County and Pingtung County,” he said.
Two DPP lawmakers — Pan Men-an (潘孟安) and Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) — are widely expected to battle for the right to represent the party in the race for Pingtung County commissioner. Both have strong local ties, but neither has made an official announcement.
The DPP is most concerned about a potential rift between candidates during the primaries, which could lead to party infighting during the official campaigning period, he said.
Past experience has shown that the party can lose a number of “easy constituencies” due to internal strife, he said.
The most challenging constituency in southern Taiwan for the DPP could be Chiayi City, which is currently governed by Mayor Huang Min-huei (黃敏惠) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). With DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋), a native of Chiayi, saying he has no intention of running for mayor, former department of health minister Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲) could emerge as the DPP’s candidate.