Tsai shifts to national issues amid leadership challenge

President Tsai Ing-wen urged her administration on March 19 to put more emphasis on national issues as she fights for the ruling party nomination. (NOWnews)

TAIPEI (CNA) — President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) urged her administration on March 19 to put more emphasis on national issues as she fights for a second term after an influential Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) member threw his hat into the ring for the 2020 presidential nomination.

While former Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德) registered a day earlier to seek the DPP nomination, Tsai was expected to register Wednesday before embarking on a visit to Taiwan’s diplomatic allies in the Pacific.

Tsai made the comment at the opening of the Taiwan Cyber Security Summit. She told her administration that national issues should be given top priority, as the government can only gain public support through its achievements.

Meanwhile, commenting on his chances of winning the party’s nomination, Lai said at National Cheng Kung University, his alma mater, that he “probably stands a chance.” The vocal proponent of Taiwan independence said he will not set up a headquarters for his campaign, nor will he organize rallies.

He said he hopes party officials will not have to choose sides, adding that no one should be put into a quandary over elections. The former premier said his decision to compete in the primary was a response to calls from the DPP’s grassroots supporters.

If the DPP loses the presidential election and the number of legislators is greatly reduced, it will not just be state power that loses, but Taiwan’s sovereignty and democracy will also be greatly impacted, he said.

Following Lai’s announcement to join the nomination race, many DPP heavyweights expressed their support for Tsai, including Presidential Office Secretary-General Chen Chu (陳菊), Vice Premier Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) and more than 20 lawmakers.

While throwing support behind the nation’s leader, Su Beng (史明), the Presidential Office adviser and an independence movement pioneer, questioned the timing of Lai’s bid to seek nomination, saying that the former premier “still needs to learn.”

The primary registration kicked off March 18 and a poll will be carried out April 10-12 to determine who will be nominated by the party, with the outcome known by April 17. The presidential election is set to take place on Jan. 11, 2020.

By Liao Yu-yang, Chang Jung-hsiang, Wen Kuei-hsiang, Elaine Hou and Chung Yu-chen