President urges party unity in debate, ex-premier calls for winning

06/08/2019 09:39 PM
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President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文, left) and former Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德)
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文, left) and former Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德)

Taipei, June 8 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) called for party unity in the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) primary debate Saturday, while her sole challenger, former Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德), said winning is the most important thing for the DPP in the 2020 election and that he believes he is the best person to lead the party to victory.

The debate, which took place in the Chinese Television System building in Taipei 2:00-3:30 p.m., attracted heavy media attention because it was the first time in the DPP's history that an incumbent president seeking re-election had faced a challenge from within their own party.

Some DPP supporters were worried that the primary, regardless of who prevails in the end, could split the party and further reduce its chance of winning the 2020 presidential and legislative elections.

"Today, I would like to again say to brother Ching-te with sincerity that our enemies and opponents are not on this stage, nor are they DPP supporters who have chosen opposite sides in the party primary," Tsai said in her closing remarks.

Tsai said what they should do instead is unite every Taiwanese who cares about the DPP and Taiwan and jointly safeguard the nation's democracy, as well the DPP's status as the ruling party and the reforms her administration has implemented.

"I have said it before and I will say it again: I am willing to work together (with Lai)," Tsai said. "For the sake of the DPP and Taiwan, we should put aside our personal interests and face the elections in solidarity to secure victory."

Although Tsai stressed during the debate that she "is the leader Taiwan needs at the moment and in the next phase," she said at a press conference afterward that as a DPP member, she must honor the party's will and decision, insinuating her willingness to endorse Lai if he wins the primary.

She said, however, that it is important "not to change the master craftsman when you are halfway toward completing building a house," especially given that the vision Lai has for Taiwan overlaps in almost all areas with her current plans for the nation.

Meanwhile, Lai said in his closing statement that while he acknowledged Tsai's role in leading the DPP back into power in 2016, the party's major defeat in last November's local elections nevertheless underscored the need for the DPP to "solemnly face people's assessment of the party expressed via their ballots."

"If we lose in 2020, all the values and achievements the president just talked about will go up in flames," Lai said, adding that Taiwan's sovereignty and the DPP's legislative majority are also at stake.

Comparing the 2020 elections to a baseball match, Lai said the most important value of a game is winning. "I doubt the team will see the decision to send its strongest player to lead the team as a betrayal," he said.

The former premier said he decided to take part in the party primary because he believes it will create a win-win situation.

If Tsai wins the primary, he said, it means the president has been upgraded to her "2.0 version" and hence stands a better chance of winning the 2020 race. If he wins, he continued, he "would be giving society new hope."

At a post-debate press conference, Lai expressed regret that Tsai in the debate once again failed to explicitly pledge support for him if he wins the primary. He said the president's reluctance to do so undermines something she has repeatedly called for, which is party unity.

The DPP is to determine its 2020 presidential candidate based on the results of public opinion polls conducted June 10-14. The samples will be collected via both cellphones and landlines to ensure that people who rely only on cellphones can also be reached.

(By Stacy Hsu)


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