Tsai Ing-wen to seek chair of Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party again

Tsai Ing-wen's bid could open the door to a 2016 presidential run and increase the infighting over the party's stance on cross-strait relations

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 March, 2014, 5:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 March, 2014, 5:58pm

The former leader of Taiwan's main opposition Democratic Progressive Party yesterday announced she would seek the party chairmanship again in May, paving the way for a possible run for president in 2016.

Tsai Ing-wen's move is expected to intensify party infighting over its core issues and ambitions, especially in terms of cross-strait relations.

She will run against incumbent Su Tseng-chang and former party chairman Frank Hsieh Chang-ting in a race to be decided on May 25. Su has taken a hardline approach towards ties with Beijing, Hsieh backs co-operation, while Tsai is expected to strike the middle position between them.

Tsai, who led the party from May 20, 2008 to mid-January 2012, said the DPP and Taiwan needed to evolve to survive.

"Time has changed, and the world we live in has also changed, but if we insist on living in the past, we will finally be eliminated by the world," Tsai said during a news conference in Taipei.

"I announce my bid today because I want people here to restore trust in our party, and once again have hope we can build up the country, society and families," she said.

Tsai said the party needed to ensure people's livelihoods, initiate policies that reflect changing realities and be responsive to public opinion.

She called for a DPP that was tolerant and connected to a wide cross section of society.

Tsai said achieving her vision was necessary if the party was to dominate the year-end local elections and win the legislative and presidential races in 2016.

Analysts said the chairman's race was a fight for the future direction of the party, including policies for cross-strait relations.

Traditionally a pro-independence party, the DPP lost the presidential election in 2008 to the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang's Ma Ying-jeou.

His victory was widely seen as a turn by the public towards engaging with the mainland.

But Ma has suffered a sharp slide in public support following his unsuccessful attempt to remove a party rival, legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng.

Voters also blame Ma for a stagnant economy and a series of scandals, including concerns over the island's food safety.

"Tsai hopes to go in the middle of the road so she won't adhere to [the] anti-mainland policy as Su has preferred or the pro-mainland policy Hsieh has advocated," said Wang Kung-yi, a professor of international studies at Tamkang University in Taipei.

Tsai stepped down as DPP chairwoman in 2012 after Ma's victory. Examining why she lost afterwards, Tsai said the DPP had to change to reflect the new situation on cross-strait relations.

Both Tsai and Su are reportedly interested in running in the 2016 presidential elections, though the two have declined to comment on the race.