TAIPEI (CNA) — Former Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德) on May 21 accused President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) re-election team of spreading lies by saying that he previously told Tsai he would not run for the presidency.
Lai and Tsai are both from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The former premier is challenging the incumbent president through the party’s primary election mechanism for the right to be the DPP’s candidate in the 2020 Presidential Election.
During an interview on a radio show Tuesday, Lai said when he met with Tsai on March 8, she did not ask him if he planned to seek the party’s nomination for the upcoming presidential race, refuting suggestions to the contrary.
The suggestion that Tsai asked him whether he intended to run and that he replied in the negative is a lie, Lai said, “whether it is the president or her aides that lied, I do not know, but someone did.”
While Lai is widely seen as presenting a serious challenge to Tsai, he said during the interview that it is not his intention to make things difficult for anyone, adding that his decision to run for the presidency comes from a “sense of duty to Taiwan.”
In addition, Lai called for a clean primary and insisted that the right course of action is to follow the party’s established procedures, though there was no consensus so far on how to conduct the primary.
“Anyone who wants to win must do so cleanly. If that does not happen, I’m afraid there will be no way to unite the party or heal the divisions in society,” he said.
For party unity, Lai said he is willing to meet with Tsai.
When asked by a reporter if he would withdraw from the primary if the DPP Central Executive Committee decides to delay the primary again on Wednesday, Lai reiterated that he fully intends to see the contest through to the end.
“I will not quit,” Lai said.
The DPP originally planned to hold a primary between the two in mid-April but pushed it back to May, ostensibly to leave more time to find a solution that avoids a fierce internal primary battle. Many in the party believe that delaying the primary is intended to boost Tsai’s chances of winning.
The DPP primary is based on opinion polls and the date those will be conducted is set to be finalized in the next round of talks Wednesday.
Responding to Lai’s comments, Tsai said Tuesday that she told the former premier during a meeting one week before the March 16 legislative by-election in Tainan that both of them are key to the party winning the 2020 presidential election, and they should talk before Lai makes any move.
Meanwhile, Tsai’s campaign manager Ruan Jhao-syong (阮昭雄) issued a sternly worded statement that accused Lai of not telling the truth.
Ruan said Lai’s account of events is inaccurate and came as a surprise, because before registration for the DPP primary began on March 18, many people both inside and outside the party had asked him whether he was going to run in the primary.
In addition, Ruan said that Lai has previously served as a party executive committee member and a standing committee member and as such should be aware that any suggestion the primary process will be anything other than clean is unfair to the committee members.
Lai calling for a clean primary shows a lack of respect for the democratic mechanisms within the party, Ruan said.
By Wen Kuei-hsiang, Chen Ja-fo and Chung Yu-chen