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Tsai wins easy election as DPP chairperson
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-05-25 08:31 PM
Tsai Ing-wen took back the chair of the DPP Sunday, easily outpointing Kaohsiung County Deputy Magistrate Kuo Tai-lin to assume the party’s leadership mantle once again after ceding the post to Su Tseng-chang four years ago. Both Su and Tsai called on party members across Taiwan to cast their votes, with Tsai going on Facebook to encourage members to “Let us change the ruling party and go on to change Taiwan."

Tsai led from the outset in polling, earning a victory similar to her 2010 campaign when she grabbed over 90% of the votes to defeat former Taipei County Magistrate Yu Ching. Sunday's vote came after a low-key contest in which both candidates avoided personal criticisms and sought to minimize friction in party ranks in order to help ensure momentum for the critical year-end elections.

Tsai said Saturday that the election for party officials and representatives was a chance to help restore faith in the party among the people of Taiwan. She noted that the balloting represents new hope for the party of democracy in Taiwan and pledged she would work to keep the DPP a tolerant political party and a force for political action.

Tsai’s second stint as head of the DPP comes at a critical point for the party. The 318 Sunflowers student movement stole much of the party’s thunder for nearly two months in March and April, galvanizing the political scene in Taiwan by occupying the Legislative Yuan and throwing a wrench in the works of the KMT’s attempt to ramrod the Cross-Strait Services Trade Agreement (CSSTA) through the assembly. CSSTA, together with the Free Economic Pilot Zone Law and the Public Officials Election Law, are three issues that will test Tsai’s leadership ability and political and economic savvy during the next couple of years.

Tsai will also have to deal with resistance from members of the party who are skeptical of her motives in running for chairman, seeing it as little more than a stepping stone to another go at the presidency in 2016.

Key voices in the party have called for the party leadership to put forward specific policies as soon as possible for handling the challenges that Taiwan faces, lest the party become even more marginalized than it is at the moment. Former legislator Lin Cho-shui says that Tsai must abandon her "oppose everything" approach to issues like cross-strait relations, while Lai I-chung, Deputy Executive Director of the Taiwan Thinktank, points out that the DPP needs to engage in dialogues with society and the popular opposition in order to regain a position of leadership in Taiwan’s political scene.

Perhaps most critical will be laying out the future direction of the party in dealing with China. The KMT has clearly shown that it will not accept anything that smacks of concepts like the “two-nation” theory or the “one country on each side” theory, but as Lin Cho-shui points out. Tsai served as the chair of the Mainland Affairs Council in the past, and as an expert in cross-strait issues she should be able to deal with the problem.

In the meantime, Tsai will probably find herself very busy working to rebuild trust and confidence in the party in the hearts of voters after the experience of the Sunflower movement. The DPP will also need to handle the possibility of losing supporters to new movements such as the Taiwan March organization formed by the two leaders of the 318 movement.

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