Rumors are circulating in Tainan political circles that Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) is considering running for New Taipei City mayor should New Taipei City Mayor and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) announce a bid for next year’s presidential election, while Lai’s ambiguous response to the rumor yesterday served only to further speculation.
“I have not yet decided [whether to run for New Taipei City mayor],” Lai said. “It seems like someone [intentionally] spread the rumor to hold Chu back from giving up his position and running for president... I do not want to spoil the effect of the rumor by giving a specific statement.”
“I’ve never said that I would serve out my four-year term. What I said was: ‘I would do my best to manage city affairs,’” Lai added.
Lai’s team reportedly “feels uncomfortable” at Lai’s renunciation of his bid for the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential nomination and his supporters have been urging him to “take his political career to the next level,” people in Tainan political circles said.
That “next level” might include the vice presidency or premiership, if presidential candidate and DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) names Lai as her running mate, or if she wins next year’s presidential election and appoints Lai as the premier, the people said, adding that another option for Lai would be to “venture into northern Taiwan to expand his political territory.”
Taking into account Lai’s character, it is unlikely that he would be comfortable as Tsai’s deputy, people close to Lai said, adding that it remains uncertain whether Lai would assume the premiership if Tsai is elected president.
Until the uncertainties are resolved, it would be better for Lai to “depend on himself” and make a bid for New Taipei City mayor in order to enrich his political experience by serving as mayor in municipalities in both southern and northern Taiwan, which could boost his electoral chances for the 2020 or 2024 presidential elections, people in Tainan political circles said.
If Chu resigns as New Taipei City mayor to run in the presidential election, it is likely that Lai would run in the mayoral by-election for New Taipei City, the people said.
If he were to do that, Lai would have to resign as Tainan mayor, leading to a by-election for Tainan mayor, which is a cause of concern for Lai, they added.
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