Outspoken candidate Lu drops out of race for Taiwan's president
Lawrence Chung in Taipei
Former Taiwanese vice-president Annette Lu Hsiu-lien of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party has surprised supporters and opponents by dropping out of the race for the island's president in 2012.
Lu, 67, announced her decision in a news conference yesterday, calling it an 'enlightenment from God', and that she wanted to devote her life to protecting the environment in the wake of the devastating earthquake and radiation leak in Japan.
The news came just hours before fellow DPP member and former premier, Su Tseng-chang, officially declared his intention to seek the party's nomination.
Analysts said Lu's exit would turn the nomination into a head-on clash between Su and party chairwoman Dr Tsai Ing-wen, who caught Su unawares earlier this month by declaring her desire to run for the seat of the president.
Lu had been due to host a news conference to detail her views on cross-strait policy when she announced that she no longer wanted to take part in the DPP primary which began on Monday.
She was the first DPP heavyweight to declare her presidential intentions on February 28.
'I will no longer take part in the DPP primary and I give my blessing to anyone who wants to do so,' said Lu, who earlier said she had hoped to become the island's first female president.
Her announcement was welcomed by party members, including Tsai and Su.
'I greatly appreciate what she has done to maintain unity within the party and I hope the DPP primary can take place in a peaceful and harmonious manner,' said Tsai.
The outspoken Lu has long been seen as a firebrand within the party because of her often sharp criticism of the DPP leadership. Her subsequent plan to run for president lead to concerns that party unity would be damaged.
However, Lu, snubbed the party leadership for its failure to stop the infighting, saying she no longer wanted to remain on the central executive committee.
'I will resign from the central executive committee,' she said, adding that she had no plan to help either Su or Tsai with their campaigns for president because 'I don't think they need me, and nor do I feel comfortable with them running Taiwan'.
Lu said she would continue to pursue the 'normalisation of cross-strait relations and peaceful co-existence between Taiwan and China'.
Hsu Yung-ming, a professor of political science at Soochow University, called Lu's withdrawal a wise move, since she had been left on the margins amid a duel between Tsai and Su.
'Lu declared her bid almost a month ago, but her popularity has been low and if she insisted on joining the primary, she had little chance to win,' Hsu said.
The DPP will hold the primary through five islandwide public opinion surveys instead of having party members vote for the nominees.
Lu has said that the system was unfair to her given that she has a lower media exposure than the other candidates.
The DPP is scheduled to announce the nominee on May 4.