Ruling Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Trong Chai (蔡同榮) yesterday announced his intention to join the race for the DPP chairmanship though the party has yet to decide when to call the election and how.
Meanwhile, Presidential Secretary-General Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃) said he is contemplating whether to join the battle as some colleagues have urged him to, because he is considered a party heavyweight.
In a written statement, Chai, a longtime activist for Taiwan independence, said that he considered it his mission to enter the chairmanship race to safeguard the DPP's founding causes and help it retain power after the presidential election in 2008.
Saying that he plans to build his campaign around the theme of "winning back the people and letting Taiwan's identity stand tall," Chai attributed the DPP's debacle in the "three-in-one" elections last week partly to the party's failure to champion Taiwan's identity.
Chai argued he is fit for the top DPP leadership post because he possesses superb "organizational ability," a quality he added could allow him to win back some 600,000 DPP supporters who either abstained or turned away from the party in the recent polls.
The party is expected to elect a new chairperson in January at the earliest, after former chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) followed through on his pledge to step down to take reponsibility for the electoral defeat.
The ruling party, which won nine counties and cities in the elections for local governors in 2001, managed to retain control of only six of the 23 seats up for grabs on December 3.
According to the DPP charter, if the incumbent president is a DPP member, he should concurrently serve as party chairman, but President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) resigned from his post as party head in the wake of the party's lackluster performance in the legislative elections in December 2004.
Chai said he would join the race to the end and denied allegations the Mainstream Alliance faction of which he is a member, has pledged support for Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮).
Lu, who was appointed by the DPP Central Standing Committee to serve as acting chairperson, has painted her leadership post as transitional in nature. Pundits have suggested that Lu, Yu and former DPP lawmaker Luo Wen-jia (羅文嘉), who lost the Taipei County magistrate election, are likely candidates to succeed Su.
Chai, a native of Chiayi City, has signaled interest in the DPP chairmanship every time the party has shuffled its leadership berths in recent years.
But DPP lawmaker Tsai Chi-fang (蔡啟芳), who represents Chiayi County, pointed out bluntly that Chai had little chance of victory. Tsai suggested the septuagenarian Chai might as well retire and be content with his role as a grandfather in light of his old age.
Yu, a native of Yilan County, is himself suffering from low morale after he failed to help the party's nominee carry Yilan County. Yu said he will make known his intentions after he makes up his mind.
A group of DPP legislators said in a gathering Thursday night that the party needs a clean, honest and capable chairman following a series of corruption scandals involving government officials and agreed Yu was a suitable candidate.