Taipei, April 20 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Saturday said she respected her Democratic Progressive Party's primary procedure and denied a report quoting her as saying that a president should not compete in a primary.
"A lot of media outlets took what I said out of context. I am a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) member and I respect the party procedure," she said at an event held by the Taoyuan City government.
"I am also the president of Taiwan, and I have responsibilities as a president."
She urged her administrative team to unite and steer the country in a better direction and give national affairs the highest priority.
Tsai, who is seeking her second term, is facing a major internal challenge from former Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德) for the DPP's nomination in the January 2020 presidential election.
The United Daily News on Friday quoted Tsai as saying in part that a president cannot compete in a party primary, which drew criticism.
But what Tsai said was that she was confident of winning a primary, but if the DPP held a primary, it would split the party because competition brings attacks.
"How is the party going to unite then?" she said Friday.
Lai, on the other hand, reiterated Saturday that his decision to compete in the primary was a response to anxious calls from DPP grassroots supporters.
If the DPP did not make changes, he said, it would not only lose political power but also see a big reduction in its number of seats in the Legislative Yuan, which he contended would have a huge impact on Taiwan's democracy and sovereignty.
He also said it was not necessary to approach a primary with fear because it is part of the democratic process and a procedure the DPP has been proud of.
The DPP has postponed the start of the party's presidential primary from April to May 22 in the hope of resolving the differences between Tsai and Lai through a mediation process.
In other developments, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu's (韓國瑜) sharp criticism of Tsai and her administration also drew Tsai's attention.
Han, a star in Taiwan's opposition Kuomintang (KMT), recently said Taiwan's economy has been sluggish for 20 or 30 years, and the three most recent presidents, who were all law graduates of National Taiwan University, were to blame.
In response, Tsai said Saturday that overseas Taiwanese businesses have invested NT$137 billion (US$4.45 billion) in Taiwan this year, creating 1,800 jobs, and boosting the national economy is not just a slogan but what the government is doing every day.
As to Han's characterization of Taiwan's armed forces as "lacking discipline" and not having a combat capacity, Tsai said that as commander-in-chief, she demanded that Han retract what she described as inaccurate comments.