Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian left for Central America to cement ties with Guatemala and St Lucia yesterday, a day after his ruling Democratic Progressive Party's worst election defeat. His six-day trip will allow him to lick wounds while trying to advance Taiwan's diplomatic ties. It will also provide him the much needed room to avoid the question of whether the humiliating loss signals the end of the road for him. While most analysts say the election result means Mr Chen is now a lame duck president who will fade out of power in May, others remain sceptical, saying it is too soon to write him off. 'President Chen is known for his elastic endurance, meaning he will fight for whatever chances he has to stage a comeback despite adversity,' political commentator Yang Hsien-hung said yesterday. He said the DPP's defeat was so big that even the party's presidential candidate, Frank Hsieh Chang-ting, had difficulty tackling it. But with the dire need for an immediate realignment in the DPP, and all the political resources still in Mr Chen's hands, there was still room for him to manoeuvre, he said. 'If Hsieh fails to win the presidency in the March election, Chen is likely to stage a comeback in 2012, as there will be no DPP bigwig to compete with him,' he said. Mr Hsieh yesterday declared he would quit politics if he failed to win the presidency in the March 22 contest against his KMT opponent, Ma Ying-jeou. Yen Chen-shen, research fellow at the Institute of International Relations at National Chengchi University, said the 56-year-old Mr Chen would still be young enough to run in 2012. 'It is likely he would run for president again,' Dr Yen said. Under the Taiwanese constitution, a president can only serve two four-year terms, but can run again four years after he or she steps down. Some DPP officials said no one should underestimate Mr Chen's spirit, saying several times he had shown the ability to turn the tide even at his darkest moments. They said Mr Chen's years as a lawyer meant he would fight to the last. In 2006 he faced a calamity when his son-in-law was charged with insider trading and his wife was indicted for corruption. Mr Chen demonstrated his crisis-management skills by first blaming himself and seeking forgiveness from the public. He even offered to reduce his power to allow the premier the final say in matters of government. But, with the aid of hard-core pro-independence supporters, he managed to keep power. Three months of non-stop protests by hundreds of thousands of people failed to dislodge him. Three attempts by the opposition to initiate recall motions to oust him remained just that - attempts. Late last year he won full control of the government and the DPP by becoming chairman of the ruling party. Pundits said it remained to be seen whether Mr Chen would still be able to exercise his strong influence after he returned from Central America on Friday. In a brief pre-departure news conference yesterday, Mr Chen said: 'After the fierce election battle, I have no time to take any rest but must go across half the globe to continue to battle for diplomacy.'