Regardless of her declining popularity and Beijing’s antagonism towards her, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen is running for re-election as the island’s leader in 2020.
“It’s natural that any sitting president wants to do more for the country and wants to finish things on his or her agenda… I’m confident. It’s something I have to be prepared for,” says the sitting president.
On criticism, she said,”Being President here, you’re not short of challenges. At good times you have challenges of one sort, and in bad times you have challenges of another sort. So, it’s always a challenge – one after the other,” was her response.
The first woman to be elected leader of the self-governed democratic island in 2016, Tsai catapulted to power along with guarantees to overhaul the economy and lessen Taiwan’s dependence on mainland China.
Two years afterward, her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) underwent bumps and hammerings during the local elections in 2018, pushing her to resign as chairwoman of the party. Across the island, her party lost by almost 10% of the vote.
Since then, she has confronted clamors from senior members of her own party not to seek re-election. Nevertheless, in the face of disapproval and censure, she is “confident” in her ability to win, Tsai told media.
In the face of continuing tensions in her own turn, Tsai believed cross-strait relations were not a major aspect in her party’s setback during the 2018 elections.
Tsai blamed her party’s colossal defeat on what she calls a thorny reform program she has set in motion since taking office.
Likewise, her initiatives to advance pension reform and push for equal rights for the island’s LGBT community have become conflict-ridden issues in Taiwan, spurring dissent and across the island.
Tsai lamented, “You get attacks, you get criticism, the people don’t feel the result of the reform so much when you’ve just started.”
Tsai will be confronted with a tough re-election bid and could be compelled to deflect other contenders both from her own party and the Kuomintang (KMT), the main opposition party that conventionally favors closer relations with mainland China.
Some polls have Tsai down as much as 30% against potential Kuomintang presidential nominee Eric Chu, whom she defeated in 2016.
Asked if there was anything she regretted from her first term in office, Tsai said she felt she had spent too little time talking with voters in her first two years in power.
“I spent too much time managing government affairs and I spent a lot of time making foreign visits to our diplomatic allies,” she said. “Many people thought I was a bit detached from them.”
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