Taiwan’s 2020 DPP Primary Puts Tsai Ing-wen and Party Unity Under Pressure

The DPP primary has devolved into a slugfest over procedure and party identity.

The News Lens
Date: 2019/04/30
By: Courtney Donovan Smith

Credit: Reuters / TPG

From the moment William Lai (賴清德) registered in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential primary to challenge President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) re-election bid on March 18, tensions began to divide the party and its top brass was left scrambling to attempt to contain the damage.

His entrance into the race appeared to have caught many of the top people in the party by surprise, including key people in his own famously disciplined New Tide factional wing of the party. This surprise was compounded by what many consider the sheer audacity of the act: It is rare to challenge a sitting incumbent in a primary, and unprecedented to challenge a sitting president. Even more shocking to some is that William Lai had only just a few months prior headed President Tsai’s cabinet as her premier – and, as premier, he had stated he would support President Tsai in the upcoming 2020 election.

For many in the top echelons of the DPP, this – as they perceived it – act of betrayal to party unity and the president was unconscionable. The party swiftly moved to delay the primary – simply an opinion poll conducted among a sample of Taiwanese residents, regardless of party affiliation – for a few days to buy time for a hastily convened group of five top party figures to try and broker a compromise while the president was on an overseas trip. 34, or half of the sitting DPP legislative caucus issued a declaration of support for the president within 48 hours. Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) announced he would not run in 2020, leaving the VP slot vacant. Calls for party unity echoed through the halls of power and throughout the pro-DPP partisan media. Polls hastily held “proved” (polls being widely considered politically influenced or somewhat manipulated, though not entirely fabricated, in Taiwan) that a Tsai-Lai ticket would be more formidable than either candidacy alone.    [FULL  STORY]

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