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Three DPP presidential candidates bid for nomination

By the March 25th deadline, three presidential candidates from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had registered their intention to bid for the party’s nomination for next year’s presidential race.

Days earlier former DPP Vice President Annette Lu registered as a candidate before withdrawing on March 22. On the same day, former Premier Su Tseng-chang, 64, announced his bid for the DPP nomination for the 2012 presidential election. The following day, both Su and DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, 55, registered as presidential candidates in the party primary. Just before the deadline, they were joined by Hsu Hsin-liang, 60, one of the founding members of the DPP.

Already, four political television debates are scheduled from March 31 to April 22, before the public poll is conducted at the end of April to select the party’s nominee. The formal announcement of the DPP presidential nominee will be made on May 4.

Commenting in the Liberty Times, Su said he will win next year’s presidential election based on his love for Taiwan and on his experience. The value of the nation does not lie in the size of its territory, but in the happiness of its people, he said. The top eight happiest nations in the world are small ones. The future of Taiwan should be an ideal nation in which all the people are happy. Su vowed to achieve that goal with the joint effort of all Taiwanese people together.

Tsai announced her participation in the DPP primary election on March 11. According to the United Daily News, Tsai has noted the many problems facing Taiwan, ranging from sovereignty, diplomacy, the economy and many other areas. It is impossible to combine all these complex issues into a campaign slogan, but she said, “Let us join together to build a nation in which young people can envision their future.” If nominated by the DPP, Tsai would be the first female presidential candidate in the history of the Republic of China on Taiwan.

A law graduate from the National Taiwan University, Su has served as premier, presidential secretary-general, Pingtung County Magistrate, Taipei County Magistrate, chairman of the DPP, legislator and has held other civil service positions. In last year’s local elections, of five newly formed municipal mayors, Su ran against incumbent Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin but was not elected. Tsai has a PhD from the London School of Economics. She has served as vice premier, minister of the Mainland Affairs Council, legislator and in other civil service positions. She was elected DPP chairwoman in May 2008, after her party lost to the Kuomintang (KMT) in Taiwan’s presidential election. Both Su and Tsai are from Pingtung County in southern Taiwan.

At this point, it is very difficult to predicit who will win in the opinions polls. Despite her relative youth, Tsai is confident and ambitious. An editorial in the Taipei-based China Times  noted that after three years in the DPP chairmanship, Tsai has managed to win more victories than defeats in a dozen local elections since 2008. She has successfully established alliances with party elders and other party factions in various elections. She has managed to build alliances, but is careful not to step into the different party factions.

Before the registration deadline closed, Hsu borrowed NT$5 million (US$166,600) and threw his hat into the ring as well. He is the former Taoyuan County Magistrate and has served two terms as the party chairman. Hsu is predicted to have a slim chance of winning the DPP nomination, but his participation will put additional pressure on Su and Tsai.

Currently, the ruling KMT controls 73 seats of the total 111 seats in the Legislature Yuan while the DPP holds 33 seats. In Taiwan’s 22 cities and counties (including the five newly formed municipalities), the KMT dominates in 15 while the DPP has the upper hand in six.

According to the Liberty Times,,Taiwan’s Central Election Commission is holding five public hearings throughout the island regarding combining the 2012 presidential election with the legislative elections scheduled for January 4. The decision on whether the elections will be combined will be announced in mid-April at the earliest.

If the presidential election is moved ahead from March to January, the transition time before the new president takes office would be up to four months long. Some are worried that the long transition period for the “caretaker president” will negatively impact the political situation before the new president is inaugurated on May 20.

President Ma Ying-jeou is expected to be the KMT presidential candidate in 2012.