The race for the chairpersonship of the Democratic Progressive Party expanded to three candidates yesterday with the last-minute entry of former Changhua County Magistrate and ex-Legislator Weng Chin-chu (翁金珠).
The deadline for registration of candidates ended yesterday at 5 p.m. Besides Weng, DPP Legislator Trong Chai (蔡同榮) had registered last Thursday and former presidential secretary-general Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃) officially registered Monday morning.
An estimated 234,000 DPP members are eligible to vote in the election, which will take place January 15, for a new chairperson in the wake of the resignation of former DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌).
Weng arrived at the DPP headquarters in Taipei City at 4:30 p.m. to register her candidacy, bringing with her the required NT$1.5 million registration fee in cash. Weng, who had previously announced her decision to withdrawal from the DPP's influential New Tide faction, stated that factional influences should not affect the campaign for party chair.
Weng's sudden decision to sign up as an official candidate came one day after she was visited by former DPP Chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄), but Weng declined to respond to questions by reporters regarding whether her decision was due to Lin's influence.
In open letters addressed to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Yu, Lin expressed opposition to Yu's candidacy, saying that the involvement of any serving or former senior leaders of the DPP administration in the election would obstruct the emergence of a new leadership in the DPP and would only bring harm to the party and to Taiwan.
According to media reports, Lin had asked DPP Legislator Hung Chi-chang (洪奇昌) and former justice minister Chen Ding-nan (陳定南) to run, but both declined.
In her statement of political views, Weng affirmed that she would follow the party's charter and encourage party members to work to realize the party's ideals. Moreover, the former Changhua County magistrate and ex-legislator stated that she "deeply understands the grassroots people's high expectations" of the DPP.
"If I undertake the work of chairperson, I will endeavor to win back the support and love of party members and the masses in society for the DPP," Weng vowed.
Weng related that she had administrative experience and "understood that resolution and concentration is the most important motive power in organizations" and promised that she would fully devote herself to party affairs and "utilize the Taiwan's intellectual and cultural resources to upgrade the party's policy attractiveness."
Weng also related that she had once engaged in educational work and was "deeply aware of the importance of ideals and values for society and individuals."
The former Changhua County magistrate promised that if she won the chairpersonship, she would bring the spirit of an educator into the party and "always follow our party's core values of Taiwan's democracy and freedom and the dignity of Taiwanese."
Weng's action evidently did not enjoy the support of her former faction.
Speaking to reports yesterday evening after a meeting of the New Tide faction, DPP New Tide Faction convener Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康) expressed "regret and disappointment" over the fact that Weng had not first consulted with the New Tide faction before making her decision.
Besides announcing his decision to resign to take political responsibility, Tuan announced that "since the party members can make a wise decision, we will not issue any resolution supporting any particular candidate."
Tuan, a former DPP lawmaker, also stated that Taiwan society has "exaggerated expectations" over the chairperson election.
While acknowledging that the DPP had "not met the people's expectations," Tuan said that 'the problem does not lie in the DPP chairpersonship."
With Weng's entry, the three registered candidates include:
Trong Chai, 70, has served previously as chairman of the board of Formosa Television, founding chairman of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs, founding chairman of the United Formosans for Independence, president of the Referendum Promotion Association and professor of political science at New York University;
Yu Shyi-kun, 57, former presidential secretary-general, has served as premier, vice premier, Yilan County magistrate, chairman of the Taipei Mass Transit Corporation, DPP secretary-genera, Taiwan provincial assemblyman; and,
Weng Chin-chu, 59, has served three terms as a DPP legislator, National Assemblywoman and was a long-term member of the DPP's New Tide faction.
The credentials of the three candidates will be vetted this afternoon by the DPP Central Standing Committee, which will also finalize the schedule for the campaign's televised debates.
The DPP headquarters will hold a drawing of the numerical designations of the candidates Thursday, after which the campaign will begin in earnest.
The winner of the race will be officially announced January 18 and the new chairperson is expected to take office after the Lunar New Year holiday, which begins January 28.
So far only one faction has openly expressed support for a single candidate, namely the Welfare Country Faction, which is backing DPP Legislator Trong Tsai.
DPP Tainan County Branch Chairman Kuo Kuo-wen (郭國文) told The Taiwan News that "the most important role of the chairpersonship election is to promote reform of party affairs and organization in order to revitalize the DPP."
"Therefore, it would be best if the candidates are not people who will run in the future presidential election as party affairs and organization reform will by necessity offend some people and such persons may be reluctant to take such risks," Kuo said.
Kuo expressed the hope that candidates would use televised debates to discuss concretely how they will rebuild the trust of society in the DPP and added that factional considerations may exercise less influence among the voting behavior of members than in previous elections.
However, National Taiwan University Professor of sociology Michael Hsiao (蕭新煌) urged citizens not to have "excessive expectations."
"Since the DPP is still the governing party, its highest priority is to re-examine itself so that it can more effectively complement President Chen in his administration and curb corruption," said Hsiao, who added that "the new DPP chairperson should not try to wear the trappings of reform in counterpoint to the president but should work to make the governance of the administration more efficient and effective.