President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is expected to announce former Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) as the new premier at a press conference this morning, a presidential spokesman confirmed last night.
By appointing Su, Chen will bring an end to more than a month of speculation regarding the leadership of the DPP administration in the wake of the governing party's severe setback in local elections December 3. In the wake of the poor poll performance, Su had immediately resigned from the DPP chairmanship.
President Chen accepted on Tuesday the decision by Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) to resign from the Cabinet, effective Monday. Hsieh had offered his resignation to Chen twice in the wake of the December 3 elections, but had been asked by the president to stay in office for the time being "for the sake of party unity" while Chen engaged in consultations over the political situation. Hsieh formally announced his resignation yesterday noon.
Speculation immediately shifted to the identity of the new premier, but Su, widely seen as the most likely candidate, has replied to questions about the possibility of becoming premier with a simple "thank you."
If chosen, Su will become the fifth premier in nearly six years of President Chen Shui-bian's DPP administration, following in the wake of Tang Fei (唐飛), Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄), Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃) and Hsieh.
Hsieh's resignation and the imminent appointment of a new premier sparked a new wave of speculation about the composition of the new Cabinet.
Su is expected to complete the appointment of his new Cabinet before the beginning of the lunar new year holiday on January 29.
In related news, the DPP announced yesterday afternoon that DPP Chairman elect and former presidential secretary-general Yu Shyi-kun, who won Sunday's by-election for the governing party's chair with a 54.1 percent majority of over 46,000 votes, will formally take office January 26.
Speaking with civic members of a Cabinet task force on the Olympics yesterday morning, Hsieh repeated that President Chen had consulted with the so-called four "stars" or "heavenly kings" of senior DPP leaders who are seen as possible contenders for the party's nomination for the March 2008 presidential election, namely Su, DPP Chairman-elect Yu Shyi-kun and Vice President and Interim DPP Chairwoman Annette Lu (呂秀蓮).
Hsieh stated Tuesday that Chen's effort at consulting with the four heavyweights in the hope of gaining a unanimous consensus on a candidate had failed and implied that he was not the reason for the failure.
The outgoing premier defended his decision to publicize the incident, saying that it was an "important issue for the country and for the DPP" and that "the people had the right to know" as the process revealed the behind the scenes concerns of top policy makers.
Hsieh said he had not intended to "fire a last shot" and said there was no reason for the president to be upset by his statements.
"It was not the fault of the president that the consultation was not successful," Hsieh stated.
Hsieh's statements regarding the failed effort by President Chen to reach agreement among the four so-called "stars" met with denials by two of the four.
Hsieh was later met outside the doors of the DPP headquarters in Taipei City by a number of members of the pro-DPP "Taiwan Heart" society led by DPP Legislator Kao Chien-chih, who shouted slogans to encourage the outgoing premier and gave Hsieh a bouquet of flowers.
During the scheduled weekly DPP Central Standing Committee meeting, Hsieh delivered an emotional statement at Lu's request.
DPP Secretary-General Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋) strongly denied television news reports that Hsieh had cried during the talk and related that the premier's statement was "emotional, but was also humorous and there was no crying or anything like that."
Lee added that Hsieh, who holds a CSC seat based on election in the last party congress and not due to his position as premier, said that he "would even more actively attend and participate in Central Standing Committee meetings and party affairs in the future."
According to other DPP party sources, Hsieh also stated that he had taken the initiative to resign and was not compelled to resign as would have been the case after legislative elections.