Taiwan president Tsai defends drop in approval ratings, saying nothing 'wrong' with her team

Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen sat down for a chat with journalists from six Asean countries, including The Straits Times, at the Presidential Office Building on May 5, 2017.
Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen sat down for a chat with journalists from six Asean countries, including The Straits Times, at the Presidential Office Building on May 5, 2017.PHOTO: OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, REPUBLIC OF CHINA (TAIWAN)

TAIPEI - Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen, who has seen her approval ratings tumble from 70 per cent in May 2016 to 40 per cent now, has defended her administration, saying its decisions are right.

As she prepares to mark her first year in office on May 20, Ms Tsai told The Straits Times and other Asean media in an interview on Friday (May 6), "This is the way we conduct business here and I don't think there is anything wrong with it."

She said it is rare for a president to want to implement many reforms in the first year in office.

It is a challenging year when you are trying to do so many things within a short time, said Ms Tsai, who led the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party to victory in the 2016 presidential and legislative elections.

Ms Tsai, who won the presidential poll with 56 per cent of the vote, had promised to introduce reforms to boost a moribund economy, improve the social safety net and better prepare Taiwan's youth for the future.

But recent public opinion polls show that no more than 40 per cent of those polled are satisfied with her work, down from 70 per cent when she took office in May 2016.

One of her government's most controversial reforms is the overhaul of the island's pension system, which have drawn strong resistance from those who stand to lose even as most people say the changes are needed.

Ms Tsai said: "It is hard to tell people that you are going to face a situation that your pension will be reduced. If this is an easy task, my predecessors would have done it."

But she remains undeterred, saying her team has to be firm and prepared to overcome all sorts of difficulties.