Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) issued a statement yesterday saying she has no intentions of entering the by-election for Democratic Progressive Party chairperson, a move that is turning an originally crowded field into a two-way contest between a presidential aide and a senior lawmaker.
Lu, who is concurrently serving as acting DPP chair following the party's recent electoral defeat, said she has no desire or interest in seeking the post, ending speculations that she was eyeing the chairmanship in a bid to run for president on behalf of the DPP in 2008.
"All I want is to work with party members and hold a fair election with style," said Lu, who offered to quit the DPP helm Monday but changed her mind on Wednesday and agreed to stay on. "I hope the by-election can produce a new leader capable of revitalizing the party, accelerating democratic reforms and strengthening Taiwan sovereignty."
The by-election, necessitated by the resignation of Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) who stepped down to take responsibility for the December 3 electoral debacle, is due to be held on January 15.
Lu said she simply wanted to take advantage of her tenure as acting DPP chair to help lift the party's level of discipline, its moral standards and its soul.
"Hopefully, the new DPP leader can also help Taiwan meet the challenge brought about the trend of globalization," she said in the brief statement.
Pundits have speculated that Lu would seek to become the regular DPP chair in an attempt to win the party's presidential nomination in 2008. Lu's decision not to seek the chairmanship helped set the stage for an upcoming duel between Presidential Secretary-general Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃) and DPP Legislator Trong Chai (蔡同榮).
DPP Legislator Lin Chung-mo (林重謨), who had said he would run if Lu stayed in the race, is now saying that he will play a spectator role during the campaign.
"Whoever leads the party would be better than Lu, who is known for grandstanding," Lin said.
Yu, who served as premier, vice premier, Yilan County magistrate and provincial assemblyman, gained President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) approval to resign, and is believed to have the endorsement of Chen and his Justice Alliance faction in his bid for the party's chairmanship.
Gao Jyh-peng, a DPP lawmaker and Justice Alliance member, said he considered it ill advised for the alliance to field any candidates since the president has expressed a wish to stay above factional competitions.
Gao said he will ask Tsai Chi-fang (蔡啟芳), another DPP lawmaker and Justice member, to drop out of the contest.
Chai, a longtime independence activist, has secured support from the Welfare State Alliance faction and diehard pro-independence elements within the party, who consider Chen too soft in dealing with Beijing.
DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yee (李俊毅) said he preferred Chai for the chairmanship berth and painted the race as a struggle between Chen's supporters and those discontented with his leadership. Lee also criticized Yu as being a hypocrite, noting that Yu has said he did not consult the president about his candidacy when it is obvious that he has been tapped by Chen to succeed Su.
"Chen would be an utter fool if he really had no prior knowledge of Yu's intentions," Lee said. "The two had better quit the political sideshow, which fools no one."
Yu is slated to formally register his candidacy tomorrow. With comparatively more personnel and financial resources, he is expected to carry the race as the campaign unfolds.
The influential and well-organized New Tide faction is believed to be throwing its weight behind Yu, though it has not made any unequivocal statements on the matter.
Former DPP lawmaker Duan Yi-kang said the faction has yet to discuss which candidate to support, but added that he found "the drama Lu staged" to be immature and improper.
Lu allegedly silenced her critics Wednesday by shedding tears before the party's Central Standing Committee.
"If I must watch someone crying, I'd rather go home and look at my daughter," Duan said.