Tag Archives: Tsai Ing-wen

President Ma re-elected with over 50% of votes

Incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou, 61, candidate of ruling the Kuomintang (KMT), was re-elected for another four-year term on January 14 by winning 6,891,139 votes, accounting for 51.6 percent of the total votes.

In a short victory speech in front of his supporters, President Ma declared: “This is not a personal victory, but a victory for the people of Taiwan!” He said the success of his re-election was mainly the result of the people’s appreciation of his government’s efforts in tackling corruption, reviving the economy, and striving to ensure peaceful cross-strait relations. Taiwanese people have given him a clear mandate: let him continue his policy line, the Taipei-based China Times reported.

His strong competitor, Tsai Ing-wen, the first female presidential candidate of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), garnered 6,093,578 votes, 45.63 percent of the total valid votes. Tsai announced her resignation as DPP chairwoman directly after the election defeat. The third-placed candidate, James Soong of the People First Party (PFP), received 369,588 votes, about 2.77 percent.

Pan-Blue dominance in the north, pan-Green in the south

Among Taiwan’s 23 million residents, there were 18.08 million eligible voters in the presidential and legislative elections. The voter turnout was 74 percent.

The United Daily News reported President Ma beat Tsai with over one million votes in northern Taiwan, where the KMT used to dominate while Tsai only won by 530,000 in southern Taiwan where the DPP used to win. In the final count, the key to the victory of the pan-Blue camp including the KMT and PFP this time was to achieve a “big win in the north and a modest loss in the south.” Overall, the DPP won majorities only in six counties in the south and in Yilan County in northeastern Taiwan while the KMT won the remaining 15 counties.

Out of a total of 113 seats in the legislative elections, the KMT took 64, losing 17 from the last election, while the DPP won 40 seats, an increase of 13 over last time. The PFP won three seats, an increase of two. The strongly pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), considered as a member of the pan-Green camp, won three seats. In an analysis, the Liberty Times wrote that although the KMT still maintains an absolute majority in the Legislative Yuan and will continue to dominate in the executive and the legislature in the future, while the opposition including the DPP and the TSU control 43 seats, passing the one-third threshold, and are in a position to act as a viable opposition bloc.

The China Times said in a comment that the KMT has only five legislative seats in southern Taiwan while taking almost all seats in the north. Such a fortification of the division between the pan-Blue dominance in the north and the pan-Green’s hold on the south will further regionalize Taiwan’s parliamentary politics, sharpening the discrepancy between South and North.

“Thanks to Taiwan, the Chinese know what human dignity is like.”

The United Daily News reported that this was a tough presidential race. In the latter stages of the election, the “1992 consensus” became the focus of the presidential debate. Although facing criticism from opposition groups, Ma won the election, meaning that debates around the “1992 consensus” had also been won.

The “1992 consensus” between Taiwan and China, refers to the understanding reached by the two sides at the 1992 talks in Hong Kong, where the issue of “one China” was discussed. The core content of the consensus is “one China, respective interpretations.” In simple terms, “one China” is recognized by Beijing to mean the People’s Republic of China (PRC), whereas Taiwan interprets it as meaning the Republic of China (ROC). The two sides recognize each other as a political entity and are willing to shelve the sovereignty dispute in order to promote exchanges and interactions.

The United Daily News commented that President Ma’s government has made some concrete achievements in cross-strait policies, such as opening of direct flights between Taiwan and China, allowing mainland Chinese tourists to travel to Taiwan, and in 2010 signing a free trade-like agreement with Beijing called the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). In contrast, the DPP has no clear-cut policy on cross-strait issues, and stresses the issue of independence for Taiwan. In the final stages of the election campaign, the US government announced that Taiwan would be included as a candidate country to enjoy visa waiver status, and Taiwanese business tycoons like Terry Gou of the Foxconn Group, Chang Yung-fa of the Evergreen Group, and Cher Wang of HTC came out in support of the “1992 consensus.”

According to an analysis from NOWnews, Taiwanese people have a stereotype impression of the DPP’s cross-strait policies because President Chen Shui-bian’s administration (2000-2008) maintained a hostile stance toward China, creating tense relations with Beijing. After the signing of the ECFA, voters have seen the economic benefits of such an agreement with China. They worried that should Tsai be elected, that unstable cross-strait relations would re-emerge. Due to a fear of lost business and jobs that could have resulted in increased uncertainty, they backed Ma rather than Tsai.

The Commercial Times reported that Zhang Nianzi, dean of the Shanghai Institute of East Asian Studies, said that this election was a test and a review of China’s policy direction with regard to cross-strait relations, the commitment to the “1992 consensus,” and an expression of whether Beijing’s goodwill towards the island since 2008 has been appreciated by Taiwanese people. The election results give China “a lot of encouragement,” he said.

NOWnews reported that all the four major internet portals in China, including Baidu, Sina, Netease and Tencent gave headline news coverage to Taiwan’s presidential election on election day. This is the first time this has happened since Taiwan held its first direct presidential election in 1996. However, China’s news media still use the term “leader of the Taiwan region,” instead of “President.”

Wang Weinan, a researcher at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, who specializes in the study of Taiwan issues, told the Central News Agency that Chinese people very much admire the Taiwanese democratic voting system, adding that Taiwan sets an example for the Chinese people to follow. He said that this not only inspires the mainland people to change, but also is a rebuke to the Chinese government.

Liang Chunxiao, vice president of Alibaba Group, told the United Daily News “The Chinese are touched, saddened and appreciates the Taiwan election. We have no more excuse to say that Chinese people are of poor quality, and are not suitable for democracy.” Chinese economist Han Zhiguo said: “thanks to Taiwan, the Chinese community knows what human dignity is like.” Tientien Wuwei, a commentator for Jilin TV said: “Taiwan’s presidential election is in full swing, and 1.4 billion Chinese people can only be spectators. I support either Ma Ying-jeou or Tsai Ing-wen whoever wins because it is the result of democratic elections.”

The Want Daily reported that it is a disgrace to the Taiwanese if you compare Taiwan’s presidential election with the forthcoming election of Hong Kong’s chief executive on March 25, because according to “the Basic Law,” Hong Kong’s chief executive is elected by the votes of 1,200 members of the electoral college. These members are chosen by some 500,000 rich people or those with administrative powers. The seven million citizens of Hong Kong can do nothing to decide who is the next leader there.

Three major challenges ahead

President Ma Ying-jeou and his running mate Wu Den-yih (Taiwan’s current premier) will be inaugurated on May 20. The 113 elected legislators (75 males and 38 females, with an average age of 52) will be inaugurated on February 1. Both the president and the legislators will serve four-year terms in office. The China Times learned that current Vice Premier Sean Chen will very likely be promoted as the new premier. After President Ma’s recent victory, three major challenges awaits his administration.


The Want Daily noted that this election was a victory for those who support the KMT’s economics-oriented policy over those who emphasize the DPP’s ideology-based policies. One of the top priorities Ma’s administration must carry out is to strengthen support from those “economics-oriented voters who benefit from his cross-strait policy.” However, the Commercial Times said over 70 percent of Taiwan’s economy depends on foreign trade and electronics products account for almost 30 percent of total exports, and most of the electronics industry is overly concentrated in OEM models. This is why every time there is a global financial slowdown, Taiwan suffers much more than Japan or South Korea. The global economy has been dangerously affected by the financial slowdown and European junk bonds with no possible solution. Taiwan’s industrial structure has not changed much in the past four years. This is the weakest point for Taiwan’s economy. President Ma’s government should do its best to adjust the industrial structure and strengthen the quality of Taiwan’s economy.

Income gap issue

Since 2001, Taiwan has had a positive GDP, but the income gap between the rich and the poor has continued to widen. The United Evening News commented that President Ma has not solved the wealth gap in the past four years, but he must deal with the issue in the coming four years. The government’s coziness with large enterprises has created dazzling statistics of economic growth, but it does not bring substantial benefits for Taiwan’s regional prosperity, job creation or and raising wages in real terms. So President Ma’s future government must rectify the allocation of resources and address the policy issues relevant to small and medium industry. The government must help such enterprises, which are the backbone of Taiwan’s economy, to flourish, so as to achieve a relatively equal distribution of national income.

Cross-strait relations

Lawyer Chen Chang-wen said in a commentary to the China Times that, through this election, the “1992 consensus” can be recognized as the people’s political view in Taiwan. It is very difficult to criticize the consensus as lacking a popular mandate, or lacking legitimacy. Taiwan can not simply hope to benefit from the other side, without thinking of what “Taiwan can do to the mainland (or Chinese)?” Chinese internet users observing the Taiwanese election described it “as if a smell of barbecue coming from the other side of the strait.” China is bound to carry out political reforms, and can learn much from the reform process Taiwan has experienced. This is the special value Taiwan can contribute to the Chinese mainland.

President Ma proposes cross strait peace accord

In the October 17 press conference, President Ma Ying-jeou announced that his administration is preparing to initiate a peace accord with mainland China under three preconditions – necessity of the nation, public opinion support and under the supervision of the national Legislature. He stressed that such a peace agreement would not take place without the passing of a referendum and is not set to any timeline. If a referendum did not pass, then the peace pact would not be signed.

After being questioned by Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its presidential nominee, President Ma assured the nation that the initiation of such a peace agreement is only possible with the consensus of the people and after the accumulation of enough confidence between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Furthermore, the content of the pact must come under the constitutional framework of the Republic of China on Taiwan, and maintain the current status of “no unification, no independence and no war.”

In 2003, former President Chen Shui-bian talked about the necessity of establishing a “peace and stability framework agreement for cross-strait interaction,” and proposed the “one principle, four issues” agreement, in which the principle is peace, while the four issues are the establishment of a negotiation mechanism, exchanges based on equality and reciprocity, establishment of a political relationship, and prevention of military conflict. When Chen brought up the idea of a peace accord, Tsai was serving as his minister of the Mainland Affairs Council, the main architect of the proposal, President Ma stressed in the press conference.

According to the referendum law, a required minimum of 50 percent national registered voter turnout is needed and another 50 percent of valid votes cast are required to pass a referendum. Since its passing in 2004, voters have gone to the polls three times in six referendums. All have failed to pass due to insufficient voter turnout.

With the forthcoming presidential election scheduled for January 14, 2012, King Pu-tsung, President Ma’s top aide, told Commonwealth magazine that the president is especially good at “promoting cross strait relations and in overcoming the economic crisis.” Internationally, President Ma’s strengths rest on his stable and reliable character.

With regards to President Ma’s handling of controversial issues, Chen Shang-chih, a professor at National Chung Cheng University, said, the accord is design “to pave the way for Ma’s historical legacy.” Since direct presidential elections began in Taiwan in 1996, former President Lee Teng-hui has been credited with ushering in the democratization of Taiwan, and former President Chen heralded for the peaceful transition of one political party to another. Prof. Chen believes that President Ma’s legacy will be decided on “how far the cross strait relationship advances.”

As for the question of whether President Ma would visit China after his second term, King said that President Ma has publicly stated that he will visit any country, including mainland China, in the capacity of president of the Republic of China on Taiwan. However, when asked, “Do you think Beijing would agree with his title?” King replied, “I don’t think so.”

Presidential election takes to social networking

In the age of digital media, Taiwan’s 2012 presidential candidates have prepared themselves to do battle in the labyrinth of social media networks. President Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang (KMT) and Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have readied their campaigns to appeal to “digital natives,” voters who were born in the 1980s. These natives can mobilize their power in a virtual world of technology by cross-using new media such as Plurk, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube to set off a revolution in the real world.

Chen Shun-shao, associate professor of Journalism and Communications at Fu Jen Catholic University, told Commonwealth monthly that it used to be hard for social media to influence political power in Taiwan, but now it is the norm. The appearance of social networking media has changed and transformed today’s political campaign strategies.

President Ma’s campaign not only named their office “Taiwan Cheers, Great,” (a pun meaning “Like” as in checking the “Like” icon on Facebook), but also announced the establishment of a New Media Department on July 12.

Both candidates are adept with PDAs and social networks. DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen turns on her BlackBerry or uses her iPad to check her Facebook account. President Ma is also a Facebook user. If he sees any issues in his account, he will call Wang Yin-xuan, his new vice superintendent in the New Media Department. The two presidential candidates want to tap into the thinking and activities of Taiwan’s “digital natives.”

Wang said it is not enough to ask them to “please vote for me,” you have to play with them by adopting their habits. Chin Zhi-yu, 30, superintendent of Ma’s New Media Department said, what they want to do is to listen to everyone’s opinion by way of music or chatter through the social networking media. After all, much of their creativity originates from surfing the net. “We even welcome the visits of those who don’t like us,” said Chin.

Besides sharing his personal opinions on Facebook, President Ma has started using Plurk and Twitter as well, reported the Taipei-based China Times. Lee Chia-fei, spokesperson for Ma’s campaign office, said that sending out a large amount of short text messages through these two network platforms enables more people to relate to him.

Lee Hou-ching, press director of Tsai’s election campaign office, told Commonwealth that new media is not just a tool, it is has the influential power of integrating marketing strategies from video, Facebook, Plurk, text messages and news through smart phones. Another DPP official in charge of new media said those who are attracted via the internet are almost always between the ages of 25 to 30. They are young office clerks, new college graduates, executives, attorneys and other professionals, people not reached by the DPP’s traditional campaigns.

According to the web traffic monitoring site “2012 Presidential Election Fans Station,” the DPP which once led on the internet now falls behind the KMT. Tsai currently has 320,000 Facebook fans while President Ma has 850,000, according to a recent United Daily News article.

The internet is not a propaganda tool for political parties, but a way for net surfers to participate in the political process and influence party decisions, Commonwealth stressed. Taiwan’s presidential election is scheduled to be held in conjunction with the legislative elections in January 2012.

Reaching out to quake-hit Japan, Taiwan reevaluates nuclear safety

On March 11 and in the days that followed, people around the world were horrified by the images of Japan’s devasting 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that washed entire villages from the map. With so many commonalities between Taiwan and Japan, the people of Taiwan were deeply moved to help their friend and neighbor.

Taiwan is also highly prone to earthquakes, with more than 1,000 felt every year. An especially powerful one hit the island on September 21, 1999, killing more than 2,000 people, so the people of Taiwan are especially sympathic to Japan’s plight.

Since the March 11 earthquake in Japan, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry has sent 400 tons of disaster relief supplies (blankets, quilts and mineral water) and food donated by Taiwanese citizens to Japan. It is the largest donation received from a foreign country thus far, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency. Quickly following the earthquake, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry announced a donation of NT$100 million (US$3.3 million) in disaster relief to Japan. Taiwan’s entertainment circle also mobilized to hold a fundraising party on March 18 to raise NT$750 million (US$25 million). Japan’s Mainichi Daily News reported that donations from Taiwan have reached 6.4 billion Japanese Yen (US$8 million), by far the largest in Asia.

From Japanmania to empathy

In many regards, Taiwanese teens today are enamored by Japanese popular culture (including TV, movie stars, songs, costumes and comics). It is a phenomenon commonly known as “Japanmania” (harih). Journalist Chao Hsin-ping wrote in her blog, “Taiwanese and Japanese people share many customs and some Chinese characters in common. I think that is why we feel particularly close…I have been to over thirty countries, visiting more magnificent natural beauty, more ancient sites and historical monuments, and more precious cultural arts in Europe and America, but in recent years, I have felt closer to Japan.”

Also, in contrast to Taiwan’s sensationalization of news, the Japanese people and press have earned a wealth of respect for their calm and self-restraint in the face of disaster wrote an editor for the United Daily News. The Taiwan-based China Times commented, “The Japanese people have developed the notion that they are not the only victims, facing the disaster with a peaceful mind. Everyone thinks this, so and the social order can be maintained. Everyone exercises self restraint so disaster relief can proceed step by step.”

In reading the newspapers in Taiwan, you can get a sense of the deep admiration Taiwanese people have for the Japanese. “Japan suffers a heavy loss from the earthquake, but the Japanese people accept the orderly arrangement by the government. Japanese media broadcast the correct messages in a calm way, without exaggeration of the tragedy, or irrational criticism. This is no doubt a good lesson for Taiwan to learn,” expressed another Taiwanese commentator to the Central News Agency.

Taiwan and Japan are important trading partners. In 2010, total bilateral trade between the two reached a record high of US$69.9 billion. Taiwan imports its greatest volume of products from Japan, and Japan is also the largest source of Taiwan’s trade deficit. Taiwanese people are fond of Japanese products not only because of Taiwan’s colonial past under Japanese rule (1895-1945), but also because they share a similar geography and industrial structure. The Taiwanese are great admirers of Japan’s modernization and the maturity of its civil society.

Industrial chain effects

The United Daily News said that Taiwan’s semiconductor and flat panel display industries have close cooperative relations with Japanese companies like Elpida and Toshiba, so part of their orders will be transferred to Taiwan. Due to the earthquake, there has been a 20 percent price increase in flash memory and a 7 percent rise in DRAM spot prices, according to Taiwan-based Business Week. This will help Taiwan’s DRAM manufacturers rebound from the doldrums.

Before the quake, 70 to 80 percent of Apple’s flexible printed circuit boards (soft board) came from Japan, with only 20 percent from Taiwan. Post-quake, Apple is expected to accelerate the transfer of orders to Taiwan. And, if all the orders placed in Japan have to find other manufacturers, Taiwan’s FPC industry will benefit.

Japan’s decreased power capacity from the loss of its nuclear power plants will certainly hamper the country in getting back to business as usual. Also, much of Japan’s future energy needs might be concentrated on reconstruction. Taiwan is also in a position to benefit as Japan seeks to import large quantities of steel to shore up its buildings, pushing the price of steel higher and benefiting the Taiwan-based China Steel Corporation. However, the Business Week emphasized that if the industry recovery period in Japan’s disaster areas exceeds a month, global industrial supply chains will be in chaos, and nobody will benefit.

A tricky gamble

The Wealth Invest Weekly reported that so far it is still not very clear what the supply situation is for several key industrial materials after the quake, including bismaleimide-triazine (BT-Epoxy) resin, silicon wafer, ceramic powder, liquid crystal materials, photoresists, cutting fluid, and so forth. Even though Taiwanese companies currently maintain sufficient inventory and Japanese suppliers have said supply would return to normal very soon, it is well-known that there are dependent linkages in electronic components supply, each one closely interlocked with others. Once a link is broken, there is a risk of a “broken chain.” “Can you imagine if we overstocked components and parts, and pushed for over production now, but once the supply chain worry was found to be a false alarm, current rash orders would suddenly have turned into mass cancellations? How could you deal with a bunch of workers, the production capacity, and the big problem of excess inventory?” a concerned manufacturer told the Weekly.

The magazine used Hon Hai, the world’s largest contract manufacturer and parent company of Foxconn, as an example. Hon Hai has garnered the largest emergency order from Apple, which is a great vote of confidence from Apple. The number of Hon Ha workers has increased from over half a milliion to more than one million,with the number  estimated to go as high as 1.2 million. Personnel management poses an extremely tough challenge for Hon Hai in the immediate future.

The Economic Daily News reported that Taiwan and Japan have established a vertical cooperation relationship in the industrial supply chain, especially in the areas of automobiles, machinery, electronics, and data communications. With a firm control on all the key industrial technologies, Japanese companies cooperate with their Taiwanese partners more in the form of technology transfer, technology licensing and as original equipment manufacturers (OEM). The earthquake revealed the risk of this current cooperative model. On the one hand, Taiwan should consider diversifying its source of technology and components, while on the other hand, it should speed up the pace of technological upgrades so it can improve its technical autonomy, thereby reducing its dependence on Japan.

Mixed support for nuclear power

As the weeks have passed with continuing dire news from the crippled Fukashima Daiichi nuclear complex, many Taiwanese politicians and TV pundits have asked difficult questions about their government’s preparedness to handle a nuclear meltdown in the face of Japan’s floundering efforts.

The Liberty Times reported that Taiwanese shipping magnate Chang Yung-fa, chairman of the Evergreen Group, donated 1 billion Japanese Yen (US$12.5 million) on March 23 to help Japan’s disaster relief, and also shared his anti-nuclear stance. He stressed that Taiwan is located in a seismic zone and should not have nuclear power plants. The best way to minimize the risk is to abolish all active plants, and to look for alternative energy sources, such as wind or hydro power.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen voiced her support for increasing the proportion of renewable energy, upping thermal electricity generation and prioritizing the construction of new natural gas powered plants. She believes in decommissioning nuclear power plants Nos. 1, 2, and 3 as scheduled and in not commercializing plant No. 4. Instead, she would like to see Taiwan be a nuclear-free zone after plant No. 3 is decommissioned in 2025. According to Taipower’s data from last year, Tsai said, the ratio of Taiwan’s dependence on nuclear power is only 12 percent. This means that in the absence of nuclear power, Taiwan may still be able to sustain its electricity demand.

In defending nuclear energy, Taipower Chairman Edward K. M. Chen estimates that Taiwan would not generate enough electricity by 2013 if nuclear energy is discarded, reported the China Times. To build plant No. 4 without commercial operations, as suggested by Tsai, would be a waste of US$20 billion over 25 years. It would exceed US$33.35 billion based on a 40–year calculation. Taipower’s Deputy General Manager Huang Hsien-chang said it is “unrealistic” to replace all nuclear power with renewable energy by 2025. Taiwan relies completely on imported natural gas, and the international gas deals have long been signed with long-term contracts. Huang said, “You won’t be able to buy it just because you have money on hand.” Currently 99 percent of Taiwan’s domestic energy depends on imports, while nuclear power accounts for 20 percent of Taiwan’s electricity.

If nuclear power were to be replaced with renewable energy sources, such as wind power for example, then Taiwan would have to build an estimated 12,000 wind turbines to be able to replace all the nuclear power plants. So far, Taipower has only built 162 wind turbines on the west coast of Taiwan, and “the sites fit to build wind turbines have already been covered,” said Huang.

Nuclear power in Taiwan

In order to ensure a stable supply of energy and greater electricity capacity to keep up with development, Taiwan’s government started to build it first nuclear power plant in 1970. Nuclear power plant No. 1 became operational in 1979. Currently there are four nuclear power plants in Taiwan. Three of them (Nos. 1 and 2 and the newly completed No. 4) are located on coastal areas 22 to 28 kilometers north of Taipei, while No. 3 is near the Kenting National Park in southern Taiwan.

In Taiwan, the anti-nuclear movement is more than 20 years old. The DPP, which has advocated a “nuclear-free homeland”, won political power for the first time in May 2000. Immediately after his inauguration, President Chen Shui-bian instructed the Executive Yuan to announce the termination of construction of nuclear power plant No. 4. But in January 2001, the Legislature Yuan, dominated by the Kuomintang (KMT), passed a resolution to request the Executive Yuan to immediately resume construction at plant No. 4. The dispute led to a constitutional interpretation by the Grand Justices, which declared the unilateral suspension of nuclear plant No. 4 “unconstitutional” and work resumed until money ran out.

This February, the Executive Yuan announced the resumption of construction on No. 4 after new funding was approved. The new plant is almost complete and estimated to be operational soon. According to the China Times, the government will underake a full physical examination on the construction of the new plant, pledging to  safeguard the security of the plant and delay commercial operations if necessary.

In the face of the DPP’s concerns over nuclear safety, Premier Wu Den-yih said that the past suspension of construction on the plant has hurt Taiwan economically, resulting in international contractual disputes and lawsuits. The resumption of work has resulted in accumulated construction costs of US$6.7 billion, according to the United Evening News. This year another US$333.4 million was added to strengthen the plant’s safety. To halt, resume and maybe abolish nuclear power entirely has not only created huge economic  losses, but has also been “a shock to the hard-earned social consensus on nuclear energy in recent years,” the premier said.

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.