Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has appointed Su Tseng-chang as Prime Minister on Thursday, during a Cabinet reshuffle following the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s heavy losses in local elections.
Su is a former premier appointed in 2006 by then-President Chen Shui-bian and was a chairman of Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party for two terms.
His appointment follows the widely-expected resignation of William Lai, the second premier to quit since Tsai took office in 2016.
Su will replace Lai Ching-te who resigned shortly before, along with the rest of the Cabinet, in preparation for the reshuffle.
At a press conference after the Cabinet’s en mass resignation, Tsai said Su has the credentials to serve well in that post again.
“Taiwan needs someone with the experience, will and ability to carry out follow-up reforms,” Tsai said.
With such reforms already on the way, the next step is to share the benefits with the Taiwanese people, the president said, adding that she expects Su to implement that goal.
She said Su’s creativity is impressive, as evidenced by his bold recruitment of young talent and his adoption of innovative promotional strategies in the local government election campaign last year.
Tsai said 2019 will be full of challenges such as dealing with the possible economic impact of the China-U.S. trade war and with China’s efforts to impose its “one China, two systems” formula for unification on Taiwan.
Also, her team must continue to grow stronger and pay more attention to tackling issues like social distribution and care of socially disadvantaged, Tsai said.
“So 2019 will be the year to improve people’s livelihood, safeguard democracy and defend the nation’s sovereignty,” she said.
Those goals are being entrusted to Su, who has the experience to help achieve them, she added.
Su, 71, served as chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) 2012-2014, as premier 2006-2007, and as chief of staff to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in 2004.
Before New Taipei was upgraded from a county to a special municipal city in 2010, Su was head of the local government from December 1997 to May 2004.
In his bid for the New Taipei mayoral seat last November, he lost to Hou You-yi (侯友宜) of the Kuomintang by a margin of 43 to 57 percent.
At Friday’s press conference, Su said “success is not final, failure is not fatal,” quoting the late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
He also thanked President Tsai for her trust and support and promised to listen to the voices of the people.
Meanwhile, outgoing Premier Lai used a baseball analogy to describe his tenure, saying he was a middle relief pitcher.
He said Su is a “finisher” who has the skill and determination to help the DPP win back public support in the “ninth inning.”
Earlier in the day, Lai led his Cabinet in a mass resignation in preparation for a major reshuffle.
The resignation of Lai and his Cabinet came one day after the Legislature passed the central government’s annual fiscal budget for 2019.
Lai said at a provisional Cabinet meeting Friday that after Tsai resigned as DPP chairwoman following the Nov. 24 local government elections, he also offered to step down to take responsibility for the DPP’s heavy losses as he was the top administrative official in the country.
At the time, Lai said, Tsai refused to accept his resignation and he later agreed to stay on in the interest of political stability and continuity.
However, the time has now come for him to step down because it is of paramount importance in a democracy to accept political responsibility, Lai said.
(By Matt Yu, Wen Kui-hsiang and Elizabeth Hsu)