Taipei Mayor and likely presidential candidate Chen Shui-bian
appears poised to lead his party after the incumbent chairman Hsu Hsin-liang
announced on 28 December 1997 that he would not seek another term.
Mr Chen, the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) most popular politician,
has stated repeatedly he is considering running for the chairmanship. Mr
Chen is widely considered the frontrunner for the post.
Speculation that he would run rose considerably after Mr Hsu announced
he would not contest next June's election. "I warmly welcome Chen Shui-bian
to take over the party chairmanship," said Mr Hsu.
Mr Chen praised Mr Hsu's long-term contributions to Taiwan's democratisation.
"I know he must have thought long and hard about this," he said.
A run for chairman by Mr Chen seemed virtually certain after the DPP
won 12 of 23 seats in county executive and mayoral elections on 29 November
1997. The DPP won a higher number of votes overall than the long-governing
Kuomintang. The victory doubled the DPP's share of seats and put more than
70 percent of Taiwan's population under its rule.
In a separate development, Mayor Chen reiterated his conviction, expressed
earlier in December 1997, that the Taiwan Government should
hold a referendum to allow the people to decide their political
future. "The future of Taiwan should be decided by its residents by means
of a referendum," Mr Chen said during a short visit to Japan. at the end
of December 1997. He added: "Taiwanese people have the right to decide
their future and decide where Taiwan should go."
Mr Chen, a key figure in the opposition Democratic Progressive Party
(DPP) and and a potential presidential candidate, stressed his party would
hold a referendum on independence if it came to power, adding the timing
of a referendum would be carefully studied.
Mr. Chen also touched on the Asian financial crisis: He said the island
would feel the effects of East Asia's financial crisis despite its sound
economic situation. "This is a world issue," Mr Chen said. "Taiwan cannot
avoid being influenced by Asian financial problems." Mr Chen said Taiwan
had a responsibility to help affected Asian nations since "to help others
means Taiwan helping itself".
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