After revealing her intention of running for the president two days ago (3/9), DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) delivered a speech, titled "I heard Taiwan's voices - Tsai Ing-wen for the DPP presidential primary" in a press conference today to make the formal announcement, becoming the 2nd to roll into the race - after former VP Annette Lu (呂秀蓮).
It probably took many by surprise, cos judging from the behaviors of all potential runners in the past, people might expect that Su Tseng-Chang (蘇貞昌) would have made his announcement before Tsai did. Su managed to put himself into the spotlight again and again with activities one after another - music concert, book publishing, photo exhibition, etc, since his a-bit-embarrassing loss in Taipei mayor election last year (Nov, 2010) -- an election in which he behaved in a not-very-glorious manner of total disregard on the power and responsibility structure of the DPP. Not following the nomination process, he made a public announcement of his intention to run for the Taipei mayor at a time of turmoil when the DPP was suffering the possibilities of splitting and losing in the two southern cities, Tainan and in Kaohsiung. His move forced Tsai and the nomination team of the DPP to face a choice of either accepting his term unconditionally, or suffering a storm of yet another splitting on the north if they opted to pick a candidate of their choice to run for Taipei (not Su) by following the nomination rule. That wasn't really a choice for the DPP, 'cos they couldn't possibly afford to having another splitting impact. As a result, Tsai and the nomination team were forced to bend the rule for Su. Su's move was considered a power-grabbing one, made at the cost of his own party and comrades having to give away their power of determining candidates. Since Su wasn't in any party staff or official, it became that he took the power that was not followed by responsibilities. It apparently angered many green supporters.
With that inglorious history, as well as some very questionable moves he made in the past, it's natural for people to expect him to behave the same way to make an early announcement.
But the DPP's president candidate is to be decided solely by public opinion polls in which Su doesn't seem to get an edge, albeit the continuous effort of the Liberty Times to promote him by (systematically) filtering out positive news about Tsai Ing-wen -- sometimes you have to go to the pro-blue media, or even China Review News, to see important news about Tsai. Last week, when reporting an article of aiming at criticizing Tsai and promoting Su, the Liberty Times deleted a sentence, "(Su) himself voluntarily told DPP legislators that his support in polls was advancing" (告知自己民調逐步攀升的訊息), which (accidentally) revealed the secret of whom might have been behind a recently circulated rumor that Su was leading in DPP's internal polls (the DPP denied any internal poll was ever conducted). It doesn't look good for Su. The LT reported everything else (criticizing Tsai and promoting Su), but this sentence was deleted. Other media - if they do report it - reported that sentence faithfully. The most recent filtering of Tsai's news was a speech, titled "Dynamic new world - the young generations and the future" (變動中的新世界-青年世代與未來), given by Tsai to university students. The speech is an important one to show Tsai's vision on future generations and is a prelude of her speech today. It can be found in many media but not the LT.
And these are just a few of many many examples. The LT has been criticized to operate like Su's personal advocating organ ever since the infighting between Hsieh and Su for the previous presidential primary way back in 2007. For its bravery of continuous flattering Su albeit years of complaints, the LT (自由時報) has earned itself a nickname "自由蘇報", where 蘇 stands for Su.
So it makes no surprise that the LT continues its tradition of blowing Su's popularity out of proportion, which would mislead its readers into believing that Su is in the lead. But all that efforts don't seem to make a significant achievement this time. The following are some quick pointers of support rates (in percentage) between Tsai and Su:
|2/12||81%||5%||Black Rain blog||Online||green~blue|
|2/25||73%||13%||Boss Talk||Call-in||Deep Green|
|3/9||73%||25.5%||Future Market||Market||green~blue #|
|3/11||77%||19.5%||Future Market||Market||green~blue @|
One thing noteworthy is that the only host media reporting Su is barely winning over Tsai is TVBS, which aligns very well with the "promoting Su, denouncing Tsai" phenomena seen in the blue camp. All the other available data - except that of udn, which happens to be a pro-blue media - shows that not only is Su losing to Tsai, but also he is losing big. At best, Su can only get half of what Tsai has. The report (on 3/8) of Tsai intents to run boosted Tsai's support by 4% and lowerer Su's by 5.1% (a 9.1% gap), and the formal announcement today (3/11) put another 10% gap between them, making Su's support barely higher than 1/4 of Tsai's.
Not only so. Even before Tsai expressed her intent, there are groups of different stances formally expressed their endorsement on Tsai: domestic and oversea scholars and researchers, WUFI, students and The Formosan Statehood Movement. I haven't seen any group come out to endorse Su.
With the huge odds against him, Su's only chance is to "bypass the game rule" again, by pushing a coordination process in which a consensus might be reached in a closed door manner, with the endorsements from several DPP old guards who are supporting him and/or against Tsai.
He first made a move to have a so-called secret meeting - a secret meeting that was all over the news immediately - to initiate a talk with Tsai, such that "Su is the one who is seeking consolidation but not friction."
About a week later (3/6), a more formal meeting, consisting of all those important DPP big heads, was held. It was said that a consensus was reached -- on the sense of the necessity of consolidation, but not the sense of who should be the one.
Tsai's sudden announcement came two days after that meeting. Something probably happened - or should have but did not - during that meeting, pushing Tsai to think that it's the right time for her to come out. One explanation is that those old guards in the DPP attempted to enforce a "Tsai-Su" pair or even "Su-Tsai" pair, bypassing the polls entirely. The attempt might have been sensed by Tsai, and a quick decision to announce her campaign was needed to stop the manifestation of that attempt.
There's another explanation that Tsai has got everything set in the party, in such a way that if she leaves the chair position now, the party could move forward smoothly for the future duties.
Tsai will take a leave from the chairperson post. It was originally circulated that Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) could be assigned the acting chairperson to perform the party duty. Hsieh has done an excellent job organizing the campaign for the DPP in Taichung last year during the Five-City election, and has maintained good relationship with Tsai and her team. Surprisingly, DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) was picked as the acting chairperson instead. It was said that Tsai wants to avoid the impression of a Tsai-Hsieh alliance that could potentially intensify the conflict of sector fighting inside the DPP.
Tsai has already organized part of her campaign team, some were party staff, resigned from their posts to follow her. It fits well with her style -- everything thoroughly thought and well planned before making a move.
In the mean time, a Central Standing Committee meeting held on Wednesday (3/9/2011) decided to assign 5 people as members of Polling Committee (民意調查委員會) to operate the upcoming polls for nomination of candidates.
The committee will decide 5 organizations on 4/25 to carry out the polls for the president primary, with 3000 valid samples in each poll. The primary process is scheduled as follows:
3/17: announcement of primary process
3/31~4/22: speeches for each runner
5/4: announcement of presidential candidate