President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) had informed former Democratic Progressive Party chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) last week of his plan to ask Su to form a new Cabinet, and Su's chances of becoming the next premier are increasing since Chen accepted Hsieh's resignation, sources close to the decision-making authorities revealed yesterday.
One the reasons the president was so careful about replacing Hsieh was that he felt obliged to find a new position for Hsieh, so that Hsieh may continue to play a role in the Kaohsiung mayor year-end election, the sources said, adding that Hsieh is not the kind of person who gives in easily.
The sources said President Chen even went so far as to suggest that Su accept Hsieh as his running mate in the 2008 presidential race but Su turned down Chen's suggestion.
That might explain why Hsieh became actively involved in the election of the DPP chairmanship last week after he learned of Chen's decision. Hsieh decided to go back to Kaohsiung City last week to openly campaign for DPP Legislator Trong Chai (蔡同榮). Unlike Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), Hsieh wanted the president to know that he could still exert heavy influence within the DPP and in southern Taiwan, the sources said.
Hsieh, however, denied that he had tried to hold on to the premiership. Hsieh said he was not the "odd man out" in President Chen's four-player game for 2008 and since, according to the president, one or more of the other three would not accept Chen's mediation, Hsieh said he opted out.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Hsieh disclosed details of the "communication process" between he and the president, after announcing that he would lead his Cabinet to resign en masse next Monday.
Now that he has announced his decision to step down, Hsieh said he would no longer comment on the DPP system with regard to the presidential candidacy in 2008. "With the president at the helm, it should not be a problem, " he said.
Many lawmakers close to Hsieh were critical of President Chen's decision to accept Hsieh's resignation. They warned that the president's whimsical way of appointing senior officials would harm the DPP in the long run.
Lawmaker Hsieh Hsin-ni reminded the president that appointing a new premier or changing many cabinet members is not a solution to the DPP's problems.
He described the outgoing premier as a scapegoat of power struggles among DPP leaders. Most people agreed that it is difficult, if not impossible, for Frank Hsieh to achieve anything within a year after assuming the premiership, and that he should not have to take the blame for the DPP's setback in the December 3 local elections, Hsieh Hsin-ni said.
The lawmaker said she disapproved of President Chen's use of personnel changes as a means of reviving the DPP's popularity at a time of crisis. She urged the DPP to become more mature and to learn how to be a responsible ruling party, instead of blaming other people for its poor performance.