New premier appointment gamble for Tainan mayor: scholars

Taipei-Accepting President Tsai Ing-wen's (???) appointment as her new premier is a huge gamble for Tainan Mayor Lai Ching-te (???) but a step he needs to take if he wishes to advance his political career, scholars said Tuesday.

Tsai that day appointed the Tainan mayor as premier, replacing Lin Chuan (??), who announced that he will step down a day earlier. The changeover is expected on Friday.

The 57-year-old Lai is widely regarded as a rising star in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who won his second term as Tainan mayor in 2014 with 72.9 percent of the vote, the highest vote gain in a mayoral election since Taiwan lifted the martial law in 1987.

Asked to comment why Tsai had picked Lai, National Sun Yat-sen University political science Professor Liao Da-chi (???) said he is apparently the only card left for the president.

Lin has been under heavy fire from within the DPP ever since he first took office, and Tsai had to find someone to replace him sooner or later.

Lai, a rising star within the DPP and the leader of the party's largest New Wave faction (???), was originally seen by Tsai as a threat for her re-election campaign in 2020.

To lower the threat, while at the same time showing goodwill to the faction, especially with upcoming elections, including the 2018 municipal elections and the 2020 presidential election, Tsai, who is suffering from a dropping approval rate, had no choice but to pick Lai, Liao told CNA.

Echoing Liao's view, National Taiwan Normal University political science Professor Fan Shih-ping (???) said the president needs someone with a high approval rating to serve as a "reliever" for her administration.

Lai is apparently the most popular political star for the time being and appointing him as premier will definitely help to raise the Tsai administration's low approval rating, Fan told CNA.

On the other hand, if Lai fails to perform well as premier, he will not become a threat for Tsai in 2020, Fan added.

Meanwhile, from Lai's point of view, his second term as Tainan mayor will expire next year anyway.

He urgently needs to find a new position to continue his political career if he wishes to pursue a higher position, Fan noted.

It would be a high-risk gamble if he chooses to represent the DPP in mayoral elections in Taipei or New Taipei.

Even if he ultimately wins a mayoral election, he would certainly face the dilemma again of whether to leave his mayoral role prematurely to run for the presidency in 2020, Liao noted.

"Premier is his apparent and only choice," Liao said.

It is a gamble, since apparently, most of the premiers before him did not have a bright political future after serving in the post, the professor said.

But as a "golden child" in politics for so many years, Lai must have the confidence that he will not end up like his predecessors, she noted.

Fan, meanwhile, said that Lai's acceptance of the premier's job is meant to differentiate himself from other politicians who aspire to the presidency in the future, such as Taichung Mayor Lin Chia-lung (???) and Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (???).

Serving as premier will give him an advantage to compete with these political stars, Fan said.

"It is a gamble and a risky step for Lai, but all politicians who wish to advance further need to have the guts to take a gamble sometimes," Fan said.

For a person who is hugely confident of himself, Lai definitely believes he is on the winning side, Fan said, adding that this is why Lai has accepted Tsai's invitation to serve as her next premier.

The 57-year-old Lai was a physician at National Cheng Kung University Hospital in Tainan before entering politics in the 1990s. He won a seat in the National Assembly in 1996, and two years later, he secured a seat in the Legislative Yuan as a member of the DPP.

He was then subsequently re-elected three times in 2001, 2004 and 2008. In total, he served 11 years as a legislator, and was rated the best lawmaker four times in a row by the Taipei-based Citizen Congress Watch.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel