Lai vows to continue DPP presidential primary bid

TAIPEI (CNA) – Former Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德), who has registered to compete in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential primary expressed his determination to see the process through to the end yesterday.

Lai said he decided to run in the primary not only to take responsibility for the future of Taiwan but also to establish a model for a competitive primary contest.

The former Tainan mayor registered to compete in the DPP presidential primary on March 18 and President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) followed suit a few days later.

Acknowledging he and Tsai want to work for the betterment of Taiwan, Lai added that he aims to seek the support of the general public through a fair primary process that allows candidates to detail their political platforms.

According to Lai, he recently met with a five-member coordination team assembled by the DPP to try and find common ground between him and Tsai and told them his decision to compete in the primary was a response to calls from DPP grassroots supporters.

Many supporters are concerned the party could lose not only the presidency and its majority in the Legislature but also the country’s sovereignty and democracy which face unprecedented challenges, he said.

Lai resigned as premier on Jan. 11 to take responsibility for the DPP’s heavy defeat in last year’s local government elections.

The DPP has already started its primary process with the deadline for the coordination period being April 12, while political platform presentations live on television are scheduled for April 13-14, followed by public opinion polls to be conducted from April 15-17. The DPP’s Central Executive Committee is set to announce a presidential candidate on April 24.

Commenting on Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu’s (韓國瑜) declaration at the City Council Monday that he does not accept the “one country, two systems” framework proposed by Beijing for unification with Taiwan, Lai, who has described himself as a “pragmatic advocate of Taiwan independence,” said Taiwan is a sovereign and independent country and the formula is unacceptable to the people of Taiwan who cherish democracy, freedom, and human rights.

Lai also said now that Han has clarified his position on the formula, he hopes the Kaohsiung mayor will reiterate that position the next time he meets with Chinese officials.

In related news, DPP Chairman Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰) said Monday that according to the party’s regulations on the nomination of candidates for public office, delegates to the DPP National Party Congress have the authority to veto a presidential candidate.

However, Cho added that the decision to convene such a congress would not be taken lightly and such an approach has never previously been used to stop a presidential candidate.

In response, Lin Sheng-che (林聖哲), a spokesman for Lai’s office, said Tuesday that any attempt to circumvent the party primary process would cause lasting damage to the DPP.

By Yang Sz-ruei, Justin Su, Ye Su-ping and Evelyn Kao