Taiwan names Lai as new premier as struggling leader tries to get reform programme back on track

Mayor of southern city appointed to ‘iron out any problems’ after predecessor resigned in wake of serious blackout

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 September, 2017, 2:44pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 September, 2017, 2:44pm

William Lai Ching-te has been appointed as Taiwan’s new premier as President Tsai Ing-wen moved to shore up her declining public support.

A reshuffle to replace the premier had been anticipated for months as Tsai’s approval ratings dropped below 30 per cent by August, according to a survey by a private foundation, from nearly 70 per cent soon after her 2016 inauguration.

“We have a clear direction for our reforms,” Tsai told a news briefing. “Premier Lai will lead the administrative team, iron out any problems, and take us forward.”

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Tuesday’s appointment of Lai, the mayor of the southern city of Tainan, comes a day after the resignation of Lin Chuan, the premier since Tsai took office in May 2016.

Frozen ties with mainland China, a massive power outage in the tech hub for Apple and other global firms, as well as a backlash over pension reforms and a revised labour rule, were among the controversies that put pressure on Tsai to replace Lin, as she prepared for her 2020 re-election campaign.

Lai, a Harvard graduate, was a lawmaker for four consecutive terms and a whip for Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus before 2010, when he became the mayor of Tainan.

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The city is home to the plants of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co and other technology firms.

“I’ll redouble our efforts to reform and transform, for the benefit of the people of Taiwan,” Lai said.