Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) announced his resignation last night and apologized to all candidates and supporters of the governing party for its "grave defeat" in yesterday's three-in-one elections for city and county commissioners, city and county councils and township mayors.
Accompanied by Presidential Secretary-General Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃) and Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), Su led party officials and workers in three bows to the Taiwanese people to express gratitude to the people for their support and apologize for the defeat.
The DPP Central Standing Committee will meet Wednesday to discuss whether an acting chairperson will be nominated to complete Su's term, which would have ended on May 19, 2008, or hold a new election for the party chairmanship, according to a party spokesperson.
In the critical polls for city and county commissioners, the DPP retained only six slots, all of which were in central and southern Taiwan, namely Kaohsiung County, Tainan County, Tainan City, Chiayi County, Pingtung County and Yunlin County.
The latter, which was won by former DPP Legislator Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬), marked the only major gain for the governing party - the first time in history a DPP candidate will be in charge in the county.
"After such a defeat for the DPP, what does my victory mean?" Su said.
In contrast, the DPP lost several counties originally under DPP administration, including Yilan County, Chiayi City, Changhua County and Taipei County, Taiwan's biggest vote basket.
The atmosphere in the DPP vote reporting center at the party's Taipei headquarters was solemn and restrained while the results, often contradictory, flooded in from several television channels and realization of the defeat began to sink in.
At 8:10 p.m., Su, accompanied by Presidential Secretary-General and executive director of the DPP campaign Yu Shyi-kun and Premier and DPP campaign headquarters executive director Frank Hsieh, arrived at the DPP headquarters to make statements about the poll results.
"Today's election results are a grave setback for our party and are a warning given by the Taiwan people to the DPP," acknowledged the DPP chairman.
"The DPP should accept this message with an open heart, modestly face it, sincerely re-examine ourselves and boldly reform," Su said.
Since the DPP held only six commissioner seats, Su announced that "as party chairman, I am willing to accept all responsibility and resign the party chairmanship."
Su urged DPP party workers and supporters not to fall into despair because of this one defeat.
"The DPP has still a long road to travel and because Taiwan's people have high demands of the DPP, the DPP must have even higher standards and engage in self-reform and self-examination," said Su.
"We cannot have any members of our team who do not have good integrity and absolutely cannot make any mistakes that cause Taiwan's people to be disappointed," Su said.
"This is a grave defeat for the DPP and I feel very regretful and heart-broken," said Presidential Secretary-General Yu Shyi-kun, who devoted intense efforts in his home Yilan County in support of DPP Yilan commissioner candidate and former Justice Minister Chen Ding-nan (陳定南), who lost to KMT Yilan City Mayor Lu Kuo-hwa by a 48.8 percent to 51.4 percent margin, thus ending 24 years of DPP administration.
"A failure is a failure and there can be no excuses," stated Yu, who added that "the DPP has failed because the people are disappointed in us and therefore we must thoroughly and comprehensively re-examine ourselves and reform."
Premier Hsieh stated "we must face this result and accept defeat," but added that "I have always stressed that this was a local election, but it was raised to the level of party confrontation or a vote on the results of our administration."
Hsieh stated that "there are many reasons for these results and we should not have the chairman or any individual person bear this responsibility."
DPP Secretary-General Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋) stated that "the party will carry out re-examination and reform in its polices and party organization and bring the party closer to the views and needs of the public."
"If we do so, I believe the people will stand with the DPP," the DPP secretary-general added.
Lee also expressed regret that "the superior quality, integrity and administrative ability of our party's nominees compared to those of the KMT did not have a chance to be demonstrated."
Lee said that over half of the KMT nominees "were directly involved in corruption, embezzling or vote buying" and said that were it were not for the "unfavorable overall environment" faced by the governing party, many more could have won.
Lee expressed concern that the authorities of the People's Republic of China "may make the wrong interpretation" of the results and believe that the mainstream public leans to China and will intensify its pressure on the Taiwan government.
DPP Taipei City Councilwoman and Department of Women's Development director Hsu Chia-ching (徐佳青) acknowledged that the governing party candidates suffered due to the negative impact on the party's image from the misconduct of former Deputy Presidential Secretary-General Chen Che-nan (陳哲男) and the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corporation foreign labor brokering scandal.
Hsu added that the strategy of KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to turn the local polls into a "vote of confidence" or "mid-term test" for the DPP administration of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) had been successful in "covering up the better quality of our candidates."
However, Hsu added that the party made a "strategic error" by raising the stakes of the campaign into a "party to party confrontation" and by the direct intervention of President Chen in a local election campaign.
"We should have worked to focus the election more on the better quality of our candidates," Hsu stated.
"However, I am optimistic because this defeat will provide a big push for major reform in the DPP that is necessary if we are to regain the confidence of the people," she added.
A senior former DPP government official told The Taiwan News that the DPP had succeeded in getting its fundamental supporters to vote and did not lose its base, but "most middle voters clearly shifted to the KMT."
"The problem is at the core and action to remedy the situation can only take place from the core," the former official stated. "If nothing is done, then Ma probably will win the presidential election in March 2008."