DPP power struggle looms after Tsai's departure

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2012, 12:00am


Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party yesterday accepted the resignation of its chairwoman, Dr Tsai Ing-wen, following her defeat in Saturday's presidential election.

Analysts said her resignation, to take effect on March 1, was likely to trigger fierce power struggles within the party, with old guards and young turks fighting for the top post.

Within the DPP, the chairmanship became a hotly discussed topic yesterday, as the post almost guarantees its holder a shot at the presidency as the party's candidate in the next election.

While it licked its wounds following the electoral defeat, the pro-independence DPP was also expected to engage in a heated debate over whether it should stick to its position of rejecting the '1992 consensus', seen as a major reason Tsai fell short at the polls, analysts said.

The so-called consensus allows Beijing and Taipei to each have their own interpretation of what 'One China' stands for, in order to skirt sensitive political issues and move forward with cross-strait talks.

In a bid to avoid a fight over control of the DPP, some party heavyweights asked the 55-year-old Tsai to stay put after she said she must step down to take responsibility for her defeat. She failed to upset President Ma Ying-jeou, losing by a margin of just 6 per cent in the fiercely fought election. Some party members made calls for a power shift to the younger generation.

None of the DPP's so-called Four Heavenly Kings - former premiers Su Tseng-chang, Frank Hsieh Chang-ting and Yu Shyi-kun, as well as former vice-president Annette Lu Hsiu-lien - have officially expressed interest in the post, nor have they supported the younger generation.

Professor Wu Chih-chung, who teaches political science at Soochow University, said that although the four - especially Su and Hsieh - were still highly influential, they were not beyond criticism.

'Whomever expresses his or her interest at the moment would warrant an immediate attack from others,' Wu said, adding that 'with the young turks showing their interest, a round of fierce power struggles will be inevitable'.

Professor Chen Chao-chien, who teaches public affairs at Mingchuan University, said: 'The vote this time showed that the rejection of the consensus was one of the major reasons for the DPP's defeat, and if the DPP is to return to power in the next election, inevitably it must hold an internal debate to decide what to do about the consensus.'

Analysts on the mainland said the party's best chance of regaining electoral traction would be to opt for one of the more 'pragmatic' figures.

'Regardless who takes control of the DPP, they will have to come to terms with the reality of the evolving cross-strait relationship with the mainland,' said Professor Liu Guoshen of the Taiwan Research Institute at Xiamen University, adding it might be more advisable for the party to make a clean break by choosing one of its younger rising stars.

Additional reporting by Will Clem in Shanghai