DPP elects Tsai Ing-wen to lead party ahead of 2016 presidential race

'I'm aware that this time there is no honeymoon period,' new leader says after trouncing rival

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 May, 2014, 4:46am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 May, 2014, 7:56am

Taiwan's main opposition Democratic Progressive Party yesterday elected Dr Tsai Ing-wen as leader - her third time at the helm - ahead of the presidential race in 2016.

Tsai trounced her rival, Kuo Tai-lin, with 94 per cent of the vote. Sixty-five per cent of the DPP's 140,000 voting members cast ballots.

"This is my third time to be elected chairwoman, but I am aware that this time there is no honeymoon period," Tsai said in a victory statement. "We have to immediately begin rebuilding [the public's] trust in the party."

Tsai resigned as DPP leader in 2012 after losing the presidential race to the Kuomintang's Ma Ying-jeou. She is seen as one of the few potential DPP heavyweights for the 2016 presidential contest.

Her first test will be the November mayoral elections in Taipei and five other cities which make up 60 per cent of the island's eligible voters.

Since losing the presidential race in 2008, leading DPP members have debated if their party should adjust its policy towards the mainland, given its increasing regional and global influence.

Li Fei, deputy director of Xiamen University's Taiwan Research Institute, said it would be too risky for Tsai to take a strong stance either in support of or against Beijing. She would likely take a "middle ground" position to build political capital ahead of 2016, Li said.

"She will be under fire if she pursues [either of] the two radical positions in terms of cross-straits relations," Li said.

She would need the support of voters who are not leaning heavily towards either party in the presidential race, he said.

Tensions between Taiwan and the mainland grew in the eight years to 2008 under then-president Chen Shui-bian of the DPP. They have eased markedly since then.

The mainland and Taiwan have been ruled separately since the end of a civil war in 1949.