Leaders of the governing Democratic Progressive Party stated that they would do their "utmost" to persuade former DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung from quitting the party.
Lin, who was chairman from mid-1998 to mid-2000, announced his decision to withdraw his membership in the 19-year-old party in a letter sent to the DPP's Yilan County branch Monday evening, just two days before the scheduled swearing-in of former presidential secretary-general Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃), a fellow native of Yilan County, as DPP chairman.
Yu, who is also a former premier and Yilan County commissioner, won a by-election for the party chairmanship January 15 with 54.4 percent of the 46,649 valid ballots cast, compared to 16,846 or 36.1 percent for DPP Legislator Trong Chai (蔡同榮) and former Changhua County commissioner Weng Chin-chu (翁金珠) with 4,406 or 9.4 percent.
Lin had strongly opposed Yu's candidacy, saying that the former presidential chief-of-staff had to "take responsibility" for the "failures" of the DPP administration of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
Instead, Lin promoted Wong's candidacy.
Lin, who was one of the pioneers of Taiwan's democratic movement against Kuomintang martial law rule from the early 1970s, said it was "meaningless" for him to stay in the party any longer because he has no intention of being involved in any party affairs and "am unwilling to represent any political party to run for public office."
"Therefore, I choose to become an impartial master in a democratic country and will never again be attached to any political party," declared Lin, who concluded by saying he would stand together with "anyone who takes the road of upholding Taiwan sovereignty and democracy and progress" even though he was no longer a party member.
Lin also stated that the role of political parties "should be to push for the political progress of the country" and said all parties should see each other as sharing the same mission.
But the former DPP chairman stated that, after the transfer of power, the almost incessant conflict between political parties in bitterly fought elections had "deepened ethnic divisions and class antagonism" and that the continuation of "mutual hatred and cutthroat struggle after elections had bred unrest across the entire society."
In response, DPP leaders expressed admiration for Lin's integrity and democratic contributions, but also expressed their resolve to persuade him to stay in the party.
"Regarding Lin I-hsiung's declaration, the Democratic Progressive Party feels surprised and will do its utmost to persuade him to stay in the party," stated DPP Secretary-General Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋).
Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), in her capacity as interim DPP chairwoman, announced yesterday that she would introduce a motion in today's scheduled Central Standing Committee meeting calling on the party to due its best to retain Lin, saying that "no one can compare with Lin I-hsiung in terms of the sacrifices he has made for Taiwan's democracy."
DPP chairman-elect Yu Shyi-kun, whose election Lin strongly opposed, said that Lin's departure would "cause many comrades to feel a deep sense of loss and sorrow.
Yu expressed the hope that Lin "can stay and help bear the burden of the DPP's transformation and development, but the incoming DPP chairman observed that "former chairman Lin is a very resolute person and once he decides something it is very hard to make a change."
Yu stated that Lin's choice "shows that the party must stand up again and return to its values and founding ideals" and "unite to carry out the work of governance well and rebuild the party's image and thoroughly turn over a new leaf."
DPP Legislative caucus whip Chen Chin-jun (陳景峻) urged the DPP to do its best to persuade Lin to stay and for the party to carry out a thorough re-examination of its policies and operations, noting that the fact that the departure of former DPP chairmen like Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良), Shih Ming-teh (施明德) and Lin showed that there is "something wrong" in the party.
Other DPP politicians were more critical of Lin's move.
DPP Legislator Lim Jo-tsui said Lin's actions was "in keeping with his absolutist character," while former DPP lawmaker Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康), a fellow member of the New Tide faction, chided Lin's action, saying that "leaving is the easiest thing to do, but staying and struggling together would be very heavy and troublesome."
Opposition politicians commented that Lin's departure exposed the crisis in the governing party.
Opposition KMT spokeswoman Cheng Li-wen (鄭麗文) said that Lin's departure "symbolizes the loss of the soul of the DPP" and the loss of the governing party's "idealism."
Cheng, a former DPP national assemblywoman, stated that Lin's departure would have "a major political impact" on the DPP and said that the party could not act like an "ostrich" and ignore the problems of its "grave internal corruption and loss of idealism."
KMT Legislative Caucus whip Pan Wei-kang also stated that the DPP needs to re-examine itself to see if its behavior matches the expectations of its members and the rest of the people of the country if a person of Lin's "high moral character" has shown his disappointment by leaving.
People First Party whip Lin Huei-kuan said that Lin's departure showed that the former DPP chairman was "very dissatisfied" with what the PFP lawmaker described as President Chen's interference in the personnel choices of the new Cabinet of premier-designate Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌).
However, other observers believed that Lin would take a different road from previous former DPP chairpersons.