Reading the Tsai/Su Script
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 21, 2011
In March last year, Su Tseng-chang announced his candidacy for Mayor of Taipei. This forced Tsai Ing-wen, in accordance with her own Two Cities script, to run for Mayor of Xinbei City. Today Tsai Ing-wen has seized the inititative and announced her candidacy for president in 2012. This has forced Su Tseng-chang to play by her script.
Rumor has it Tsai Ing-wen's script called for "the winner to run for president, and the loser to run for the legislature." Tsai and Su would compete in the primaries. Whoever lost would be put at the top of the party roster for legislator without portfolio. He or she would then head up the party's bid for an absolute majority in the legislature. When the news broke, Tsai Ing-wen admitted that some aspects of this proposal had been floated before, but that they were absolutely not Tsai's idea. The suggestion that it was however, is not far-fetched.
The DPP leadership abruptly said it "had no particular objection" to consolidating the presidential and legislative elections, confirming that such a script existed. Consider the matter from Tsai Ing-wen's perspective. The winner of the party primaries runs for president. The loser runs for the legislature. This allows her to avoid being made one half of either a Tsai/Su ticket or a Su/Tsai ticket. If Tsai wins the primaries, she can refuse to be part of a Tsai/Su ticket. On the other hand, If Su wins, Tsai can refuse to be part of a Su/Tsai ticket. Furthermore, if the presidential and legislative elections are merged, a Tsai/Su ticket or Su/Tsai ticket would force the two to run together, on the same ticket. Such a coordinated attack would result in a multiplier effect. But suppose the legislative elections are held first, and the presidential election is held later? The result of coopetition between Tsai and Su or Su and Tsai could be unpredictable. The Tsai Ing-wen camp probably believes it can win the primary. That is why it cooked up this particular script; In other words, it wanted to force Su Tseng-chang to run for the legislature. This would block the straightjacket of a Tsai/Su ticket. If the presidential election and legislative elections are merged, Su Tseng-chang will be unable to make trouble. He will be forced to throw his support behind Tsai Ing-wen. Furthermore, suppose the presidential election and legislative elections are held separately? Suppose , the results of the legislative elections are not as favorable as the DPP hoped for? This could undermine the momentum of the DPP's presidential campaign. But if the presidential election and the legislative elections are held on the same day, and the results announced on the same day, then this will not be a concern. Therefore "the winner runs for president, and the loser runs for the legislature" and merging the presidential election with the legislative elections has now become the DPP's strategy..
What Su Tseng-chang finds hardest to swallow, is reports that DPP leaders believe President Ma Ying-jeou may be reelected. Such reports say that if Tsai Ing-wen feels confident of victory during the current presidential election, the DPP will nominate her. Conversely, if Tsai Ing-wen does not feel confident, the party will nominate Su Tseng-chang. This would avoid undermining Tsai Ing-wen's momentum, and maximize her chances of winning in the 2016 election. Confronted by such sentiments within the party, Su Tseng-chang must be deeply disgruntled.
Tsai and Su differ primarily in their age. Tsai can run in 2012. She can also run in 2016. But 2012 will probably be Su Tseng-chang's last hurrah. Tsai Ing-wen is competing with Su Tseng-chang in the presidential primaries. Not only that, if she loses the party primaries, she will refuse to be part of a Su/Tsai ticket. This has left Su Tseng-chang no room to maneuver. The party sees Tsai Ing-wen as the frontrunner. It has tilted in her direction. Tsai Ing-wen is also far more popular than Su Tseng-chang. Now consider the matter from Su Tseng-chang's perspective, Tsai Ing-wen is a Johnny Come Lately to the DPP. She has offered little besides empty rhetoric, She has failed to set forth any "outside the box" political concepts or policy proposals. Yet based on this, she is calling for a "new generation" to elbow aside the "old generation." How must Su Tseng-chang feel about that?
Tsai Ing-wen said she is not political enough. She does not know how to make political calculations. But she seized the initiative, and declared her candidacy. She promoted the idea that "the winner should run for president, the loser should run for the legislature." She also promoted the idea that the DPP "has no particular objection to merging the presidential and legislative elections." She precisely calculated the impact of Tsai/Su coopetition. She didn't miss a trick. Tsai Ing-wen clearly does know how to make political calculations. Su Tseng-chang is hoping for a Su/Tsai ticket, or failing that, a Tsai/Su ticket. But Tsai has only one goal, to run for president. She does not want a Su/Tsai ticket. She wants to rid herself of a Tsai/Su ticket. She apparently believes that Tsai can do without Su, but Su cannot do without Tsai.
For Tsai Ing-wen, such political calculations have all been calmly and rationally mapped out. Leave aside Su Tseng-chang's personal interests and preferences. Is not "the winner runs for president, the loser runs for the legislature" the fairest and most synergetic strategy? Moreover, if Tsai wants to run for president, she must rid herself of Su Tseng-chang or Annette Lu. She must also rid herself of the fetters attached to her by the Old Guard within the Green Camp.
We said that Tsai Ing-wen's "three in one goal" includes generational power transfer, waging a presidential campaign, and transforming the party's political platform. Among these, the key is generational change. Su Tseng-chang and Annette Lu were her targets during the party primaries. Furthermore, suppose she is elected and takes office. Suppose she fails to promote Green Camp generational change, and transform the party's political platform. She will find herself walking down the same path as Chen Shui-bian. She will "win the election, but lose her ideals."