After 86 days of turmoil, the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential primary finally ended, with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) winning the nomination. Now it is time for Taiwanese who love their homeland to think positively and optimistically.
The primary was a blessing and a hard-won experience for Taiwan. Both candidates, the nation and the DPP are all winners, because it deepened and advanced Taiwan’s democracy, bared the tension inherent to democracy and further consolidated it in the minds of the public. The primary was a victory for Taiwan.
Undeniably, obvious flaws could be found during the process. For instance, the promulgated rules were constantly changed and delayed, raising questions about fairness.
Fortunately, the process was concluded peacefully, and these 86 days, characterized by cooperation and competition, unwittingly boosted party morale. Overall public support for the DPP has improved slowly, but steadily from the rock bottom of 24.7 percent. Competition gives rise to progress, and the primary was a victory for the DPP.
For Tsai, being a presidential candidate nominated in a party primary bestows a different legitimacy and authority than if she had been directly nominated. The primary certainly gives Tsai an edge and strengthens her credibility and competitiveness in the election in January next year.
The reason for the primary was the concern that the administration’s policies might be too accommodating to China and are neglecting national security. Tsai also made adjustments during the primary period and turned herself into a “smart Taiwanese cookie” opposing Chinese annexation. She also put her ear to the ground in frequent visits to grassroots supporters, which helped her support ratings.
In polls, she defeated two potential competitors — Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) and independent Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) — by 11 percent and 13 percent respectively. Voters’ confidence in her is firmly established, so the primary was a victory for Tsai, too.
Former premier William Lai (賴清德) challenged Tsai because he saw the DPP’s crisis in last year’s local elections and wanted to take charge, hoping that he could turn the tide. Essentially, Lai’s challenge was not an attempted power grab, but an attempt to safeguard Taiwan’s freedom and democracy. That is why he proposed “five noes” — no mobilization, flags, vehicles, headquarters or campaign posters — and fair play. He also said that he would rather lose than harm Tsai. Lai did indeed fulfill his promises.
The DPP Central Executive Committee on May 29 insisted on changing the primary rules by including 50 percent cellphone interviews and comparing popular support for Tsai and Lai when pitched against two potential non-DPP competitors. Had Lai not conceded, the primary could have gone on forever and sent the DPP down a dark hole.
Everyone, including Lai, knows that conceding would lead to his losing the primary, but to prevent the party from disintegrating and making the primary possible, Lai gave in and showed his statesmanship and magnanimous attitude, which will be forever praised. The primary, then, was also a victory for Lai, who was the biggest winner of all.
Let bygones be bygones. It is time to seriously consider Tsai’s suggestion that “one plus one is greater than two.” Tsai and Lai can be trusted to make the best decision for the DPP and the nation.
Huang Tien-lin is a national policy adviser to the president.
Translated by Chang Ho-ming
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