The Office of the President yesterday issued a statement urging the media to refrain from speculation about whether President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) will appoint a new premier and who it might be.
In the wake of former Presidential Secretary-General Yu Shyi-kun' victory in Sunday's by-election for the chairmanship of the governing Democratic Progressive Party, many local media reported yesterday that Yu's triumph marked the formation of a tripartite alliance between Chen, Yu and former DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) to replace Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷).
Regarding the speculation that Su would take over as premier and the Cabinet reshuffle, the presidential office for public affairs "solemnly states that the question of a Cabinet reorganization is a major affair and the president is still engaging in comprehensive consideration."
"Media should not make excessive speculation based on anonymous information sources," the presidential spokesman's office advised.
Interviewed on his way to visit his ailing mother at National Taiwan University Hospital, Su, who resigned the DPP chairmanship to take responsibility for the governing party's setback in local elections December 3 declined to comment on the reports he would replace Hsieh, who had also offered to resign after the elections but was asked by Chen to remain in office for the time being.
Su only expressed his best wishes for Yu, whom he said "definitely can help improve the party since he has mature experience and is familiar with the party since he was once secretary-general.
"We hope Yu Shyi-kun can take this heavy responsibility and improve the party so that everyone can improve the party and the government," Su added.
However, Su declined to respond to a question about "how to boost the government side" and stated that "my most important desire is for my mother to get well."
For his part, Yu told the United Evening News in an exclusive interview that the power to decide on a new premier definitely is in the hands of the president.
However, Yu noted that, in line with his principle of "mutual consultation between party and government and collective decision making," the president can use this mechanism to consult with the governing party in advance and "first formulate consensus policies and then on this basis the president can make his choice."
"In this way, the new premier's policy line and direction will be very clear," Yu stated.
Not all members of the DPP camp backed a switch in premiers at present.
Speaking to media yesterday morning, DPP legislative caucus leader Chen Chin-jun (陳景峻) said he believed the president will consider the matter in a comprehensive manner.
He was skeptical of the need to make such a personnel change because President Chen has appointed four premiers since taking office in May 2000.
With the Legislative Yuan controlled by the "pan-blue" alliance of the Kuomintang and People First Party, the legislator said it was questionable as to whether Su would be able to solve the predicament faced by the DPP government.
On the other hand, if Su's political capital were to become "exhausted" after two years in the premiership, the DPP would have problems finding a qualified candidate to face opposition KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in the next presidential election, he warned.
Under these circumstances, the DPP must be very cautious on the issue, he added.
On the other hand, DPP Legislator Hung Chi-chang (洪奇昌), a leading figure in the party's New Tide faction, said it was feasible to appoint someone as premier who planned to run in the next presidential election to set the stage for his presidential campaign.
However, Hung stated that an alternative would be to tab a senior Cabinet official as the next premier and cited Central Bank Governor Perng Fai-nan (彭淮南) as one possible candidate.