The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday sought to counter criticism of its controversial legislator-at-large nominations, which failed to include a leading DPP lawmaker and have led to renewed in-fighting.
The roster, based on the party’s share of the popular vote, ranked DPP Legislator Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮) as No. 22 out of 34 candidates, making his election unlikely unless the party takes more than 65 percent of the vote — an improbable scenario even by its own estimates.
Excluding the six-term lawmaker is seen as the latest slap in the face for an increasingly vocal group of DPP politicians, including former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), incensed at their diminished influence and stature under DPP Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).
On Wednesday, senior DPP officials confirmed that the list will not be renegotiated, even after No. 3 on the roster, a labor activist, backed out citing controversy over a potential lawsuit. The list was finalized by a party committee chaired by Tsai last Wednesday.
DPP spokesperson Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), in an attempt to assuage criticism over what members of Chai’s “Gong Ma” (elders) faction have called a closed-door process, stressed that the roster was passed unanimously by the recommendation task force and later by the DPP central executive committee.
The individual placements took into account “election considerations,” he said.
“[We] welcome and accept constructive criticism, but are unwilling to see this turn into a battle between party members,” Chen said, adding that the roster took into account deliberation about how to best drive up both turnout and the DPP vote.
Those remarks look unlikely to sway critics, who have been given a boost by Chai-controlled FTV news. Lu commented on the roster in an exclusive interview on the channel on Wednesday night, questioning the placement of several party heavyweights on the fringes of the list and therefore making their election improbable.
It “wasn’t impossible” for DPP politicians to overturn the current roster, “only complicated,” she added.
Some members of the -legislators-at-large roster should instead be encouraged to run in Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-dominated areas in an attempt to broaden the party’s support base, she said.
Similar remarks were made by commentators on the FTV show Boss Talk (頭家來開講) on Tuesday night and by DPP central executive committee member Hung Chih-kun (洪智坤), who has been active in seeking to overturn the current roster.
Tsai has appeared to remain unfazed by the criticism, even going as far as to say during a closed-door meeting that critics fomenting internal dissent could be referred to a party disciplinary committee, however unlikely, according to media reports.
Passed by a Tsai-chaired nomination task force, the list places three party heavyweights and several politicians from the party’s different factions near the bottom of the safe list. Her exclusion of members of the Gong Ma faction is widely believed to be an attempt by Tsai to stamp out the group, which has publicly criticized several of her initiatives.
The controversial additions of former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), Tsai’s rival in the primaries, as No. 18, former premiers Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) as No. 20 and Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃) at No. 16 is said to have made the roster especially competitive with six incumbents forced off the safe list.